While Washington is mired in turmoil over the partisan debt-ceiling crisis, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney remains far from the political firestorm. His campaign brain trust firmly believes this uproar is temporary. There will be bigger fish to fry after the New Hampshire primary next February.
Romney is instead focusing on the lack of employment for younger Americans now entering the job market. The strategy counteracts Obama’s ongoing courtship with young/first-time voters considered undecided and potentially new recruits to his campaign.
The younger generation turnout for Obama in 2008 hasn’t gone unnoticed by Romney strategists. If the former governor can successfully transmit his message to them, it could be a decisive factor in a close election. Stump speeches now center on the ongoing theme that Barack Obama has betrayed younger voters who helped him win the White House.
Governor Romney has discovered his own “hope and change” message among the 18-35 group of election 2012.
While the president is locked in the unending battle on the debt-ceiling, the former governor of Massachusetts is mining the electorate’s key issue – jobs. In a recent Gallup Poll, 31 percent of Americans felt the economy was the overriding issue, an additional 27 percent specifically mentioned unemployment/jobs while only 16 percent cited the nation’s debt.
This is the major reason Romney is leaving the debt-ceiling nightmare to others as he focuses on younger Americans and the deflated job market they face.
His campaign staff assumes Governor Rick Perry of Texas will soon announce his intention to enter the Republican field of candidates. Recognizing this and planning a counter-attack knowing full well he will not be the darling of the far-right is vital to his success next year.
The campaign planners are well aware many former Bush supporters are skeptical of a Perry candidacy. When Bush was running for governor of Texas in 1998, it was his popularity that swept Perry into the lieutenant governor job. His thanks for that assistance was blunt and very public criticism from Gov. Perry for “big spending” during his two-terms as president.
Bush supporters grumble that without W’s coattails, Perry would never have been governor in Texas.
Romney must attract as many former Bush-backers and become the “anti-Perry candidate” representing the sizable moderate-center of the Republican Party. That will trump Perry’s reckless Texas swagger and frequent off-handed remarks perfectly.
The Bush contingent will carry major influence at the Republican Convention next August. That is unless, by some miracle, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman or Michelle Bachmann find a way to catch Romney and equalize his campaign war chest.
If not, Rick Perry will be Mitt Romney’s only opponent heading into late spring.
All the more reason for the former governor to be running his general-election race now rather than a “divide and conquer” strategy in the primaries. If he can remain on good terms with the powerful Tea Party portraying the successful businessman with a track record of creating jobs – he’s home free.
Meanwhile, Obama is stuck in the quicksand of Washington politics while a fresh and vibrant Mitt Romney becomes America’s antidote to higher taxes and government debt.
It’s a plan that will work if he sticks to that message.
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