Published April 19, 2012
Say what you will about Mitt Romney, he is an extremely intelligent man surrounded by sharp, well-paid political players.
And “Team Romney” appears to have one big advantage over President Obama.
I’m not talking some financial advantage – though fundraising for GOP-leaning Super PACs is far outpacing those supporting the president.
And I am not talking about an organizational edge that comes from having the GOP control the governorships and state legislatures in battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin.
No, Team Romney’s big advantage in this election is having been forced into a painfully accurate self-awareness.
After seeing the candidate stumble repeatedly in the primaries, despite having every advantage, the campaign is extremely aware of their candidates’ weaknesses. They are now in the process of executing a strategy that downplays that weakness.
This is the moment predicted by the revealing ‘Etch-A-Sketch’ comment from a top Romney aide. Here are the pivot points to watch for as the old Romney fades from the screen and a new Romney appears for the voters on key issues:
The Economy: Romney is a successful businessman. He made billions of dollars as a cold-eyed hedge fund manager. To lots of voters that means he has the ability to turn the economy around. His primary opponents pointed to poor job creation during his time as governor of Massachusetts. They attacked him as a “vulture capitalist,” to try to derail Romney’s strong image as a man who can fix the economy.
It did not work.
The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that regardless of whom they plan to vote for, voters trust Romney to do a better job of handling the economy, 47 to 43 percent. The same poll also said that voters trust Romney to do a better job of handling the budget deficit, 51 percent to Obama’s 38 percent.
This is why Romney will pivot back to the economy no matter which direction the campaign takes. His team knows that it is still his biggest strength and his best hope to win the election.
Latinos: Romney is beginning the Herculean task of repairing the damage that he has done with Latino voters on the immigration.
Again, the pivot point will be the economy.
He will say the big issue for Latinos is the economy not immigration. He will talk about restoring economic opportunity -- the dream -- for people who come to the United States.
When he has to talk about immigration he will focus on expansion of legal immigration and matching up the visa program with employer needs. He is already making the shrewd point that illegal immigration is an affront and an economic threat to legal immigrants.
The Romney camp knows this is going to be a tough pivot point for a candidate who supports the hard-line Arizona immigration laws, opposes a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, opposes in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and opposes the DREAM Act to give citizenship to young people in school or the military.
But once again the economic message will have to be the cure-all.
"We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party," Romney said at a Florida fundraiser this past weekend, citing that polls show Latinos breaking in huge numbers for the Democrats. He said this trend "spells doom for us”
Women: The ABC/Washington Post poll found that President Obama leads Romney by a staggering 19 points among women voters. These results complement those of a March Gallup poll which had the president leading Romney by 14 points amongst independent women voters in swing states.
Once again, the pivot point will have to be an economic message tailored to women.
All of the rhetoric from Republican governors and members of Congress about restricting access to contraception and abortion has taken its toll on their presumptive nominee.
Just last week, Romney ally Governor Scott Walker (R-Wis.) voted to limit women’s rights to sue when they are paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same work. By contrast, the first piece of legislation signed in to law by President Obama was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Last month, Republicans in Arizona were considering a bill that would make it legal for doctors to lie to their female patients if they believed it would help prevent them from having an abortion.
Examples like these are the basis for the Democrat’s rhetoric about the GOP’s war on women. Romney’s team wants to get back to economics.
That is why Team Romney reacted with glee when Hilary Rosen, a prominent Democratic strategist, said “Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life.” Romney turned it around into an economic argument claiming that President Obama’s economic policies have hurt the job market for women. He repeated the dubious claim that “92 percent of all the jobs lost under Obama have been women’s job.”
Independent fact-checkers have debunked this claim as an outrageous distortion. But what matters is changing the conversation from social issues – such as contraception – to the economy.
The answer, the pivot, on any and all issues for Romney is going to be the economy.
And the attacks on President Obama as a poor manager of the economy are just starting. Earlier this month, Romney blasted the president for “learning about the economy from the Harvard faculty lounge,” and “spending too much time at Harvard.”
Yet, Romney earned both a J.D. and an MBA from the same prestigious Ivy League University. Three of his five sons also attended Harvard.
The critics laughed.
But it did not matter.
All that matters is the pivot -- moving voters to train their minds on the economy.
The only question is will voters buy it? If they do, President Obama will have a more difficult re-election than he is expecting.
Juan Williams is a Fox News political analystl. He is the author of several books including "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It" and "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate."