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The Republican Challenge

From Tampa, On Point dives into the Republican moment. The politics, the hurricane, and Mitt Romney’s big week.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, left, and convention CEO William Harris unveil the stage and podium for the 2012 Republican National Convention, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. (AP)

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, left, and convention CEO William Harris unveil the stage and podium for the 2012 Republican National Convention, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. (AP)

It was all supposed to start today. Then came Isaac, the storm that pushed the Republican’s convention plans back a day in Tampa. But the challenge for the GOP and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is the same this week: To make a case, while the spotlight is on, that breaks them out of their neck and neck challenge to Barack Obama.

It is seventy days now to election day. The country has a big decision to make. Isaac’s path is in a “cone of uncertainty,” say the weathermen. So is the GOP.

Up next, On Point from Tampa, Florida: the challenge this week for Mitt Romney.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Peter Baker, reporter for the New York Times.

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Byron York, chief political correspondent at the Washington Examiner.

Margaret Talev, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News.

Susan MacManus, professor of public administration and political science at the University of South Florida.

Highlights

After a summer of brutal attack ads, the Romney campaign is wounded going into the big party convention in Tampa. “He’s feeling a little on the defensive about his taxes, his economic plan, his business record,” said New York Times reporter Peter Baker, who has been traveling with the Romney campaign.

That’s led to a feeling of frustration in the Romney campaign, noted L.A. Times columnist Doyle McManus. The economy is in bad shape, and voters think that Romney would do a better job. Yet, the GOP candidate is neck-and-neck with the president in the polls. The key to changing that perception:  “The Romney campaign has to present a positive economic plan,” McManus said.

One thing dragging down the candidate in the polling is personality. Romney has been reluctant to try to make voters like him, noted Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev. Doing that, as well as reaching out to women will be a priority in the coming days.

This pivot in messaging during the conventions marks a new phase in the campaign. Since the primaries, Romney’s challenge had been to win over Republicans. “They were skeptical of his conservative credentials. The selection of Rep. Paul Ryan resolved those doubts,” said the Washington Examiner’s Byron York.

Still, the GOP now has to show undecideds– the most sought-after voters– that Romney is a “credible alternative” to President Obama. “There are so many people who are not happy with the way that things are going,” said York. “But they don’t know all that much about Romney, they’re not sure that things are going to get better regardless of who is elected, and they think that Obama understands their problems a little more. Romney’s got to make up that gap.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Politico “Mitt’s moment is finally here. After slogging through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire, scores of debates and months of being carpet-bombed by Obama campaign ads, Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan will soon get to the business of the fall campaign.”

New York Times “Mitt Romney arrives here this week to accept his nomination from the increasingly disparate coalition of factions known as the Republican Party, confronting the challenge of unifying them behind him and — should he win — exerting his own authority over a party that is in many ways still forging a post-Bush identity.”

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