(The use of "Romney" in this diary refers to Romney himself and his campaign)
As the Republican convention In Tampa approaches on August 27, it's becoming clear that Mitt Romney really is a lousy candidate. But it's surprising just how lousy.
Let's look at the overall environment. Romney is facing an incumbent who, while personally popular with the public has an underperforming economy and has disappointed or alienated various segments of the Democratic base. Romney has behind him a largely unified Republican party who despises the incumbent and is willing to spend money and work hard to remove him. So to win the election (all things being equal) he needs to either make himself as likable as the incumbent or make the incumbent less popular; and he needs to attack the incumbent's economic policies and propose alternatives that at least appear plausible to improve the economy. In addition he needs to do the normal policy and proposal backfilling, presenting position papers on a variety of foreign and domestic initiatives for a Romney presidency. It's a measure of how bad Romney is as a candidate that he's only been effective at one of these five tasks.
The one thing Romney has been consistent at is attacking Obama's economic policies. He's lied repeatedly while doing so, but hasn't paid any penalty for it yet (and probably won't). But even in this, his attacks have been consistent but unimaginative and repetitious. There's a difference between being consistent and repeating the exact same thing over and over again, and Romney doesn't seem to vary his attack much. There's also the matter of offering up a viable alternative, and Romney has been lacking in this regard as well. His basic message of tax cuts for the wealthy is Republican boilerplate, and while (maybe) effective with Republicans has very little appeal outside of the faithful. Endorsing and adopting the Ryan plan (which is now the House Republican budget plan) was a big strategic mistake, it ties Romney to a plan that he didn't come up with and doesn't control. He should have allowed himself some strategic ambiguity as far as specifics go.
But compared to his messaging on economics, the rest of Romney's campaign has been a disaster. I'm particularly surprised at how completely awful Romney has been at public speaking. Most people who get to his level in business either have natural public speaking skills or invest heavily in their ability to do so effectively. If anything, he appears to get worse as time goes on, which may be the result of over-briefing (trying to juggle too many ideas when speaking). In addition, he's made some obvious gaffes that play into the "rich guy" stereotype, which he needs to avoid because he is a rich guy and lives a very wealthy lifestyle. Words like "dressage" are not going to help. He's also been spectacularly ineffective at attacking Obama's strength, which is his general likability among the public. Romney will probably never be as good a natural public speaker as Obama, but he really needs to pick up his game if he wants to be effective.
The other big problem for Romney is all the other policies, foreign and domestic, that he's discussed so far. It's all basically recycled boilerplate from the Bush administration, with the exception of his foreign policy views which were outdated when Nixon was President. An inspiring candidate might make a go of it with vague grand themes, but Romney is not that candidate. His whole campaign is structured around his being a take charge, hands on manager. People like that can't get by on generalities. Another thing I've noticed is how unprepared Romney and his staff has been for issues that should really be no surprise, like his tenure at Bain and their business practices. Ted Kennedy successfully attacked him on these same issues eighteen years ago. Add in the financial crisis and it's close to criminally incompetent that they still don't have a good response to attacks on that part of his record.
So can Romney turn it around in time for November? I haven't seen any evidence of it. It may be that there's no way to appeal to the Republican base and the general public anymore. Facing one of the weirdest collections of oddballs in the race for the Republican nomination probably didn't help, as it turned out he just had to wait for them to self-destruct or run out of money. That doesn't mean Romney can't win the Presidential election, but it does mean that he won't be taking advantage of any favorable trends in the political environment.
BTW, I just came across this - McCain 2008 opposition research file on Mitt Romney. No idea if it's genuine, but you might find it interesting. For the fun stuff start at the end.