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Romney Resists Hitting the Panic Button

Romney Resists Hitting the Panic Button

By Scott Conroy - January 25, 2012


LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. -- His political life may be on the line these days, but you wouldn't know it from Mitt Romney's demeanor as he campaigns in Florida.

After a debilitating double-digit loss in South Carolina, Romney has fallen behind Newt Gingrich in both Florida and national polls and is about to come under another withering, multimillion-dollar assault over the airwaves here from the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future super PAC, which announced a new $6 million Florida media buy on Tuesday.

But instead of dialing up the intensity level or test-driving a new strategy, Romney appears content to stay the course.

While they can be under no illusion over how precarious their position has become, he and his brain trust are retooling their message rather than blowing up the game plan with a week to go before the critical Florida primary.

Stuart Stevens, Romney’s top national strategist, conceded that it had been a dismal week leading up to the South Carolina defeat but suggested that the campaign known for its even-keeled personality would not give up on its analytical approach in order to channel some of Gingrich’s more visceral appeal.

“I think that we got caught up about tax returns, so we’ve got that behind us, and I think we probably didn’t do as good of a job as we should have talking about big issues -- we talked too much about process,” Stevens said. “Because people are angry does not mean they are looking for another candidate who is the most angry candidate. That just simply never seems to be the case, or you would have wonderful talk show hosts getting elected president all the time.”

Amid his campaign’s attempt to portray Gingrich as a rabble-rouser more in the vein of Jerry Springer than a statesman harkening Ronald Reagan, Romney has also sharpened his attacks on Gingrich but has not done much to loosen up his own approach.

When he delivered his State of the Union “pre-buttal” in Tampa on Tuesday morning, Romney stood on a platform inside a large warehouse that provided the professionally stage-crafted backdrop that has long been his campaign’s calling card.

Bright TV lights illuminated Romney as he stood behind a lectern and read his remarks from a teleprompter -- that instrument of professional speech-giving favored by the White House, which has long been the source of never-ending jokes among many conservatives but helps ensure that the speaker will hit on all key points.

“This president puts his faith in government,” Romney said -- just as he has in virtually every speech he has given this campaign. “I put my faith in the people of America.”

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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