Romney must start to sell himself to voters, polls show

Attacks on Obama not enough

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“I think it will reach a crescendo and it will probably be during the debates,” he said. “The presidential debates in October will almost certainly force both Gov. Romney and President Obama to make more specific statements on these issues. That could be another reason why President Obama and Gov. Romney may wish to sort of hold fire and save their comments for then, when more people are watching.”

The Romney campaign is grappling with its path moving forward, and some outside strategists said he should highlight his biography more.

Mr. O’Connell said Mr. Romney has a golden opportunity during the London Olympics to remind voters that he turned around the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, which had been beset by corruption and cost overruns before he took over as CEO.

While Mr. Romney has the option to go positive, Mr. Obama is likely to continue with negative ads, which are often the best approach for embattled incumbents, said Ken Goldstein, a campaign ad analyst for Kantar Media.

Mr. Goldstein said the Obama campaign is taking the logical approach of painting Mr. Romney as an unacceptable replacement because most voters have entrenched opinions about the president that have been formed over the past four years.

A poll released this week by Pew Research Center echoed that sentiment by finding that 90 percent of voters say they already know all they need to know about Mr. Obama, while just 69 percent say that is the case with Mr. Romney.

“Obama knows there’s not much he can do to change his own numbers and he’s trying to define Mitt Romney,” Mr. Goldstein said. “It’s going to be interesting to see if the Romney campaign changes that up a little bit because they are also going to need to introduce their person.”

Todd Eberly, the coordinator of public policy studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Mr. Romney eventually will have to win over the public and boost his lagging opinion poll numbers, but that he has been right so far to keep the focus on the president’s performance.

He added that Mr. Romney’s fortunes ultimately will come down to how fresh the nation’s struggles are in voters’ minds in November.

“For Romney, he’s looking at Obama’s numbers and looking at the economy, and at this point there’s not really much he has to do,” he said. “He’s got to start defining himself soon, but at the same time he’s got to stay negative toward the president to make sure his negative numbers stay at least where they are.”

A Romney aide declined to say Thursday whether the campaign would switch gears anytime soon, but did say that Mr. Romney would highlight his strengths while continuing to attack the president’s record.

“We are happy to put Gov. Romney’s record of job creation in the private sector, and as governor, up against President Obama’s any day,” the aide said. “We will continue to run an aggressive campaign that contrasts Gov. Romney’s record of success with President Obama’s record of failure.”

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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