Romney has struggled to connect with voters all year and has been battered all summer by attack ads from President Obama’s campaign. That has put his approval rating at 40 percent, among the lowest of all time at this point in a campaign, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month.
With less than three months to go and much ground to make up, his advisers believe that their best bet is to convince Americans that, love him or not, Romney is the solution to their problems. The Tampa convention’s theme — “A Better Future” — which organizers announced on Friday, underscores that calculation.
“We have the opportunity over four nights to present a case to the American people of why and how Barack Obama has failed and why Mitt Romney can do better and what he would do to make specific changes to turn around the economy,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior adviser who has decamped to Tampa to oversee the convention, which starts on Aug. 27.
“Who Governor Romney is is an important part of telling that story,” Schriefer added. “But the convention is not only going to focus on that. We’re going to talk about what the American people really care about, which is how can Governor Romney make their lives better.”
Many of the speeches and presentations are being designed to tell viewers how Romney plans to create jobs and shrink the debt. In addition to the politicians who will be on stage at every convention — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is slated to introduce Romney for his acceptance speech — this year’s convention will feature a series of non-political people offering testimonials about Romney.
Campaign advisers said speakers are likely to include Olympic athletes to talk about Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and small business owners who can talk about Romney’s patriotism and free-market economic principles.
“It’s a chance to talk about Romney, it’s a chance to talk about what the solutions are – it’s why this person at this moment is so right for this moment,” said Stuart Stevens, the campaign’s chief strategist.
Republicans outside the campaign said that, given Romney’s struggles to connect, they agreed with the convention approach.
“It’s a tough road to hoe after all these various attempts to try to make him the Ken Doll Next Door that you want to have over for a pot roast. They tried handing out chili, they tried him without a tie, and I’ve not seen a poll where America says we love Mitt Romney,” said a GOP strategist who has helped orchestrate past conventions and requested anonymity to offer a candid perspective.