For Romney, a Campaign Homestretch Full of Challenges

By Jeff Zeleny; Jim Rutenberg | International Herald Tribune, September 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

For Romney, a Campaign Homestretch Full of Challenges


Jeff Zeleny; Jim Rutenberg, International Herald Tribune


The state-by-state landscape facing Mitt Romney is more daunting than he expected by this stage in the contest.

There are seven days until early voting begins in Iowa, less than two weeks until the first debate and 46 days left in the race for Mitt Romney to change the dynamic of a campaign that by many indicators is tilting against him.

That, advisers to President Barack Obama acknowledge, is plenty of time.

But the burden rests to a remarkable degree directly on Mr. Romney and his ability to restore confidence to his campaign, become a more nimble candidate and clearly explain to voters why he would be the better choice to repair the economy and lead the nation in addressing its challenges at home and abroad.

The state-by-state landscape facing Mr. Romney is more daunting than he expected by this stage in the contest. He anticipated, aides said, to be in a position of strength in at least some of the states that turned Democratic in 2008 for the first time in a generation, but few of them show signs of breaking decisively his way, and Mr. Obama still has more and clearer paths to 270 electoral votes.

And as Mr. Romney works to move beyond one of the most turbulent periods of his candidacy, in a week dominated by the disclosure of remarks in which he said that 47 percent of Americans do not pay taxes and see themselves as victims, he is starting to confront criticism from some in his party who worry that his troubles will affect their own races.

"The presidential thing is bound to have an impact on every election," Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who is the Republican candidate for the Senate there, said in an interview with a Madison television station. "If your standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it's going to reflect on the down ballot."

While Mr. Romney remains deadlocked with Mr. Obama in most national polls, anxiety among Republicans about the presidential race, the seeming lurching nature of Mr. Romney's campaign and his own miscues have spread far beyond Washington. Republican strategists across the country said in interviews that their candidates were being asked about Mr. Romney's remarks, creating an unwelcome potential trap for those in tough races.

Mr. Romney has sought to turn the issue against Mr. Obama, calling the president an advocate of redistributing wealth and emphasizing, "My campaign is about the 100 percent of America." But as the two candidates campaigned in Florida on Thursday, Mr. Obama focused on Mr. Romney's "47 percent" comments.

"My thinking is maybe you haven't gotten around a lot," Mr. Obama said about Mr. Romney in an appearance at a Univision forum in Coral Gables.

There is a growing sense of frustration among Republicans that Mr. Romney has yet to take a commanding lead in any of the major battleground states -- especially North Carolina, which is tied with South Carolina for having the nation's fifth-worst unemployment rate, or Nevada, which has the nation's highest jobless rate, 12 percent.

In Ohio, Florida and Colorado, Republicans who support Mr. Romney's efforts said they were worried that he was not campaigning enough in their states and that resources were not trickling into vital counties.

"Could we use yard signs? Could we use information data?" said A.J. Matthews, a Republican State Committee member from Hillsborough County, Florida. "What would we most like from Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan? Visit us more."

In Ohio, some Republicans have expressed concern that Mr. Romney was not spending more money and appearing more frequently in rural counties where he needs a strong turnout to win the state -- and where his "47 percent" comments threaten to undercut support among working-class voters otherwise inclined to vote for him. A bus trip by Mr. Romney next week may address some of these worries. …

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