Insiders Give Romney's Campaign So-So Marks
Mitt Romney's campaign isn't winning many plaudits from the country's political class, according to the latest National Journal Political Insiders Poll.
Democrats give the soon-to-be GOP nominee's outfit a below-average grade. Asked to rate the Romney campaign on a scale of 1 (totally ineffective) to 10 (perfect), Democratic insiders on average gave him at 4.1 score.
Republicans were more positive, but not by much: They handed the presidential campaign an average score of 5.9. The GOP political class has publicly evinced skepticism about Romney and his advisers this month, with influential figures like Rupert Murdoch and Bill Kristol second-guessing their strategy.
The insiders criticism boiled down to the same basic complaint: Even while a sputtering economy should make Obama vulnerable, Romney's campaign has yet to wage the kind of aggressive attack necessary to take advantage while being outflanked on questions of the former governor's background at Bain Capital and undisclosed tax returns.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being totally ineffective and 10 being perfect, how would you rate Mitt Romney's campaign since winning the nomination?
"A strategy of duck and cover will not carry the day," one Republican insider said. "We have made the sale that we should fire the incumbent, but we have to transition into a message of why it is ok to put our guy in the Oval Office."
"Not ready for prime time. In a sluggish economy, the president should be on defense," said one Democratic operative. "But Romney has been reactive on health care, Bain and taxes. The president has been proactive pinning the GOP nominee down."
Other Democrats were more blunt in their assessment.
"He's not in the John McCain, Bob Dole, Mike Dukakis class yet, but he's moving in that direction," according to one of them.
Added another Democrat, "I feel like Obama must have a sleeper agent inside the Romney operation - otherwise there is campaign malpractice afoot."
The Obama campaign has impressed many Democrats with its bare-knuckles criticism of Romney, a narrative that has dominated much of the media's attention this month. Some Republicans think their standard-bearer needs to get tougher.
"Team Mittens is playing a gentlemen's tennis game while Obama is playing rugby," one right-leaning insider said.
Still, many Republicans retain confidence in Romney's operation. Nearly half of them gave the campaign a grade of seven or higher. Even as some of them concede he could have better handled questions over Bain, they say the criticism amounts to a summertime distraction.
"He's raising a ton of cash and shaking a million hands, which is all one can do before Labor Day," said one Republican. "Trying to win every day on the cable shows would be a waste of time and energy."
Said another Republican, "You don't get to be president by winning July."