Is Romney Too Negative — or Not Positive Enough?

COMMENTARY | Whether Mitt Romney is too negative depends on whom one asks. His opponents suggest that he is way too negative. Mitt Romney would be pleased to disagree, noting how useful negative advertising has been for him so far.

A case in point, as reported by the Washington Post just before the Florida Primary, was how Gingrich groused that Romney has a policy of “carpet bombing” his opponents with negative advertising. The tactic worked, at least up to a point. Gingrich was taken off his positive game and Romney won the Florida Primary decisively, breaking the momentum that Gingrich had gained from his South Carolina victory.

But in the meantime Rick Santorum has ascended in the polls in the wake of a triple win in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. Now Rasmussen has Santorum edging out Romney in Michigan, the state where Romney was born and where his father, George Romney, was governor. Now, according to Reuters, the Romney campaign is about to direct its negative advertising carpet bombing at Santorum.

The three-way Republican contest, with Ron Paul a distant fourth, has taken its toll on Romney. TPM reports that Romney’s unfavorable ratings have exploded, up to 54 percent with a favorable rating of just 34 percent. Rasmussen has Romney trailing Santorum in the nationwide poll.

The problem is not that Romney is too negative. With lots of money and a good campaign organization, he has shown to be very adroit in making the case why his opponents ought not to be president. But, as a Los Angeles Times piece suggests, he has not quite made the case why he ought to be president. Romney has not been positive enough.

It is not just that conservatives distrust Romney for being a Massachusetts moderate. The basis of his campaign has been how terrible a president Barack Obama has been and that Romney would do better. The problem is that both Gingrich and Santorum would also make better presidents than the current occupant.

Romney needs to make the case why he should be president. To do so, he could do worse than follow the suggestions offered by James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute. These include a real plan for entitlement reform, a plan for tax reform, and a specific list of programs he would eliminate from the federal budget.

Call it Romney’s personal Contract with America. After all, it worked before and can work again.

Sources: Newt Gingrich: Romney ‘carpet-bombing’ opponents, List Rein, Washington Post, Jan 29, 2012

2012 Michigan Republican Primary, Rasmussen Reports, Feb 14, 2012

Romney returns to familiar playbook to stop rival Santorum, Stev Holland , Reuters, Feb 14, 2012

Mitt Romney Favorability (US), TPM Report, Feb 13, 2012

Election 2012: Republican Presidential Primary, Rasmussen Reports, Feb 15, 2012

Romney’s challenge: Be more than the anti-Obama, Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, Feb 14, 2012

How Romney can start to energize conservatives, James Pethokoukis, The American Enterprise Blog, Feb 8, 2012

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