Republican presidential soon-to-be nominee Mitt Romney will make a power trip through the four most crucial swing states–Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio–beginning Saturday. While recent polls show President Barack Obama with a slight lead in some of these campaign battlegrounds, this trip will be a chance for Romney to hammer home his core message and create buzz leading up to the Republican National Convention at the end of the month. Here are five things strategists say they???re looking for.
5. Messaging: jobs, jobs, the economy, and jobs
Should Romney talk about anything else on the trail? Not really, GOP consultant Ron Bonjean told Human Events.
Unemployment rates have plateaued since the beginning of the year, steady above eight percent, and minority unemployment has stayed much higher: 10.3 percent for Hispanics and 14.1 percent for blacks as of July.
???This bus tour is an excellent chance for him to connect with voters regarding the economy and to ask the question of voters, are they better off today than they were four years ago,??? Bonjean said. ???It allows Romney to showcase his plan of how to turn the economy around.???
4. For Romney, a close race is a good sign
Poll averages from Real Clear Politics show Obama with a lead of between 1.4 and 4.8 percentage points in three of Romney???s swing state tour stops–Virginia, Florida, and Ohio–while Romney maintains a hairline lead of one percentage point in North Carolina.
While the new poll data may seem to hark back to 2008, when Obama won all four states, Bonjean said it speaks more to the nation???s deep uncertainty with re-electing him.
???For Obama to be polling under 50 percent approval and for Romney, who Americans still don???t generally know yet–for the race to be this tight with obama???s approval so low, it???s extremely favorable for the challenger,??? Bonjean said.
Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus said Obama???s likability factor, which had supporters partying in the streets on election night, and even hailing him as a spiritual leader, has also fallen off.
???Obama???s in a very awkward position; he???s got to go hard-negative to the point of making ridiculous statements that are out-and-out lies,??? Jacobus said.
3. Follow the money
The polls aren???t the only measure of how the two campaigns stack up: in fundraising, Romney has led Obama by a significant margin for three consecutive months. Not only does this help Romney meet an important goal-post, according to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, of coming into the RNC with more resources than Obama; it also highlights the strength of Romney???s support from the GOP base.
???The fact of the matter is, Mitt Romney started off in a rough spot in the Republican primary, but little-by-little, by hard work, sincerity, and consistency he???s been able to win Republican support,??? Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus said.
2. Remember that the Hope and Change crowd is quickly losing faith
Earlier this month, Human Events reported poll findings that Obama???s 2008 supporters were defecting at a rate of nine percent to Romney, while a full 14 percent said they wouldn???t be voting for the president this time around.
Why? Well, this hilarious and well-made video explains it all (hat tip to The Blaze):
This lack of fervor is a chance for Romney to push his advantage, and make this race a referendum on Obama???s record, Jacobus said.
???The depths of passion and support for Barack Obama in 2008 is just not there in 2012,??? she said.
???The fact that Hollywood is (Obama???s) base speaks volumes,??? she said.
1. Go ahead: announce a Veep pick on the road
Romney will be joined by much-touted possible vice presidential picks Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as the tour bus passes through their home states. Rumors abound that Romney will avoid a traditional VP nomination at the RNC in Tampa, Fla., and announce his choice while on tour.
It may not be conventional, but it???s a wise move, said Bonjean.
???If (Romney) were to do it now, there would be a week???s worth of attention on the vice presidential candidate,??? he said. ???If they do it before (the convention), they would just dominate coverage.???
The campaign has already started churning the buzz machine, encouraging supporters to download an app that will tell them remotely when a running mate is announced. Matt Drudge has done his part, reporting speculation that retired four-star David Petraeus or former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice could be tapped for the job.
In addition to satisfying the curiosity of Romney supporters and all the news readers who remember the thrill of discovery when Republican candidate John McCain named then-Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate before the 2008 election, naming a running mate will prevent the hungry campaign-trail media from engaging in more speculative silliness.