* Campaign says Romney to focus more on specifics
* Obama bounce fading, Romney strategist says
* Report describes chaotic Romney inner circle
By John Whitesides
WASHINGTON, Sept 17 After a difficult week that
sparked a wave of Republican hand-wringing, Mitt Romney's
campaign team fought back on Monday against a report of disarray
in his inner circle and promised to retool his message with more
specifics of his policies.
Senior adviser Ed Gillespie struck an optimistic tone
despite the Republican worries, saying President Barack Obama's
post-convention bounce in polls had faded and the race for the
White House had tightened again ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
The campaign dismissed a Politico report on Sunday night
that portrayed a chaotic Romney inner circle led by chief
strategist Stuart Stevens, who it described as "the leading
A senior Romney adviser described it as "a silly process
story." But the report raised fresh questions about Romney's
management of a gaffe-plagued campaign that has missed
opportunities to take advantage of a struggling economic
recovery and lingering high unemployment.
The questions are particularly pertinent for Romney, the
former head of a private equity firm who has made his managerial
and economic experience the centerpiece of his campaign to boot
Obama from the White House.
Most polls have shown Obama taking a solid lead in the race
against Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, but Gillespie
focused on Monday on a Rasmussen tracking poll showing Romney
moving back into a slight lead.
"The post-convention bounce has faded already and is fading
for the president," Gillespie told reporters. "If you look at
polling for Romney swing states around the country we're looking
at a dead heat virtually everywhere in the target states."
Gillespie also said Romney would begin to be more specific
about his policies, although he denied it was in direct response
to conservative criticism last week that he had not directly
engaged Obama in a battle over specific ideas.
"We do think the timing is right at this point to reinforce
more specifics about the Romney plan for a strong middle class,"
Gillespie said, describing the shift as a "natural progression"
as voters pay more attention to the race.
"They're eager to hear more details about policies to turn
our economy around and create 12 million jobs in his first
term," he said.
Romney plans three new advertisements and a series of
speeches highlighting a 5-point economic policy to create jobs,
cut taxes, bolster small businesses and achieve energy
The shift came after a tough week that saw Romney come under
fire from conservatives to be more specific in his policy
proposals, and stumble with a quick response to the crisis in
the Middle East that critics in both parties said smelled of
The conservative calls for Romney to be more specific peaked
after he struggled during a television interview last week to
explain what tax loopholes he might close to help offset the
cost of his tax cuts, or whether he would keep portions of
Obama's healthcare overhaul.
At a campaign appearance in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday,
Obama ridiculed Romney for his lack of specifics.
"They want your vote but they don't want to tell you their
plans," he said of Republicans.
Romney has long had trouble winning over the Republican
Party's most ardent conservatives, who distrust him because of
his moderate stances as Massachusetts governor from 2003 to
2007, when he backed a state healthcare overhaul that became a
model for Obama's national plan.
But many of the party's political professionals in
Washington and elsewhere also wonder why Romney is not doing
better against Obama given the 8.1 percent unemployment rate.
"People are concerned. They figured that he would use the
convention to explain what a Romney administration would look
like. But he didn't do it," a top Republican congressional aide
The Politico story portrayed a dysfunctional Romney team
that produced multiple versions of his convention acceptance
speech right up until the time it was delivered, then failed to
mention Afghanistan or U.S. military troops.
Polls showed Romney received no boost from his convention,
while Obama got a solid bounce in polls from his gathering a
week later. Several polls have shown that Obama bounce beginning
to recede, however.
Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican
Party, said Romney's supporters should be patient given there
are seven weeks and three presidential debates - and one vice
presidential debate - remaining in the campaign.
"The campaign is adjusting to the political realities by
adjusting its message," he said. "It's easy to second-guess from
the sidelines, but they have been one of the more disciplined
campaigns I have seen as far as messaging and organization." =