By Hillary Chabot | The Boston Herald | October 5, 2012
Mitt Romney must stay on the attack and maintain his want-it-more hustle for the presidency if he wants to translate Wednesday night’s stunning debate performance into a game-changing swing-state boost and a groundswell of momentum that could sweep him into the Oval Office, said political strategists and observers.
“He’s got to remain visible and show a lot of energy,” said Tom Rath, one of Romney’s New Hampshire strategists. “Every candidate sooner or later must demonstrate that they could step in as president, and for the large part Romney passed that test.”
Romney, who hammered President Obama on sluggish job growth and the economy during their first faceoff, could have a chance to step up his attacks today as a new jobs report comes out. The unemployment rate has hovered at a dismal 8.1 percent.
“The jobless numbers, I think, are going to be critical factors. I always thought this race was going to be about the economy, and if the numbers are as negative as they were last month it would be a good thing for his campaign,” said Andrew Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. “If he can keep the election about the economy and jobs, I think he has a real chance of winning.”
Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews suggested today’s job news is unlikely to be good for Obama.
“It does look like Friday’s report will show positive job growth, but it’s still slow growth. That’s got to favor Romney,” Clayton-Matthews said.
Obama’s campaign swung into action yesterday to blunt the damage of his passive debate performance, claiming Romney’s arguments were riddled with falsehoods.
“It was a very vigorous performance, but one that was devoid of honesty,” said senior adviser David Axelrod in a conference call. Axelrod said Obama will make “adjustments” to his style before the second debate Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y.
But Republicans, especially those in swing states such as Ohio and Iowa where Romney had been slipping in the polls, said the former Bay State governor’s debate victory gave them a boost when many started to believe this race might be over.
“Over the last two or three weeks we weren’t confident about it, and the debate changed everything,” said Becky Beach, a prominent Iowa conservative and fundraiser. “The independents I’ve talked to were really impressed with him and considering him when they weren’t before.”
It’s too early to know how big of a boost Romney may get across the nation and in critical battleground states such as Virginia, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, but pollster John Zogby said Romney likely will get a lift.
“One has to believe that his numbers will go up, and that’s usually what happens,” Zogby said. “He has to stay on the offensive. Clearly he landed some punches, now he’s got to look out because he’s going to have both of Obama’s barrels pointed right at his eyes next time.”
Herald reporter Greg Turner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.