Mitt Romney’s campaign for president appears to have quietly abandoned its guiding assumption, that the election would center on the struggling economy, and has visibly begun to feel for a new message.
Romney and — particularly — his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, have spent a week road-testing alternatives, going positive and going negative, swinging at the president on everything from faith to foreign policy. The new efforts mark a shift from a summer of fruitless discipline and a convention in which attempts to present a friendly, moderate tone trumped any policy substance. And campaign planners said their moves mark a new campaign consensus.
“No one in Boston thinks this can only be about the economy anymore,” one top aide said last week. “The economy narrows the gap and puts us in contention, but we have to bring more to the table.”
The core factor in the search for a new message, aides say privately, was the August jobs report. The anemic job growth was widely viewed as bad news for Obama even as the unemployment rate dropped due to people leaving the workforce. But the national shrug confirmed Romney campaign concerns that the most visible economic indicator would remain muddled through Election Day.