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President Obama has been driving the narrative from day one and Mitt Romney has been reacting. With the selection of Paul Ryan as running mate, the Romney campaign has been forced to acknowledge their primary strategy has been a failure.

Mitt Romney's primary campaign theme, "Obama is bad', was not taking hold and the campaign has had to strategically make a U-turn in mid-campaign as a result. It's never a good thing if you're ten days away from your convention and realize you have to hit the reset button.  There were rumors that his internal polling in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest were tanking. With the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate it's become obvious that Romney has no strategic ability but rather is a reactive tactician responding to the latest news cycle.

Such inability to think long term makes for a very poor national leader. In addition, Romney, in the absence of any policies of his own, has had to graft some onto himself by selecting a vice presidential candidate with built-in ideology. (Never mind that he's already running away from it but it functions to shift the conversation away from his shortcomings).

Multiple columnists have weighed in on the strategic about face the Romney campaign took with the Ryan pick, emphasizing that the election is no longer a referendum on President Obama and his policies and results, as Romney had originally intended.

John Heileman

This was ... a pick driven by political weakness. All along, Team Romney’s bedrock strategy has been to make the 2012 election a clean referendum on Obama’s economic management and leadership, an election about unemployment, growth, and wages. In elevating Ryan, what Team Romney has done is execute a sharp U-turn, embracing the theory that 2012 will not be a pure referendum but a choice election, and one in which the two sides’ contrasting approaches to the deficit, debt, entitlements, and taxes will take center stage
It’s that Chicago and the White House perceive this as a broader capitulation regarding the core dynamic of the race: an acceptance of the “choice election” framing...
That the right is thrilled comes as no surprise, of course, given the despondency sinking in among hard-core conservatives (and, really, most Republicans) over the state of the Romney campaign during this long hot summer. Themeless, timid, error-prone, and on the defensive over Bain, taxes, and the dreadful foreign trip, the Romney campaign has seen their guy’s position in the race steadily erode, with three new polls showing him behind by seven to nine points and Obama at or near 50 percent (CNN 52-45 percent, Fox 49-40 percent, Reuters/Ipsos 49-42 percent

The Obama campaign's early attack on Romney's has neutralized his 'credentials', his perceived strengths. President Obama has called the shots and determined the direction of this race from the start. The Romney campaign is reactively responding to President Obama's salvos, playing defense. It's clear Romney is purely a tactician with no strategic skill. Perhaps this is useful in finance. In world leadership, not so much.

Rick Klein

Choosing Ryan is a tacit acknowledgment by the campaign that its initial assumptions about the race – that it’s a coin flip, that Romney’s biography and experience could speak for itself, that making the race a referendum on President Obama was enough – no longer apply.
The Romney choice represents a significant adaptation from the plan that the campaign had been running before, which relied mostly on keeping the campaign focused on Barack Obama's record. By picking Ryan, who comes with a very detailed set of ideas and proposals, Romney has embraced the view that he needs to run a campaign that offers bright alternatives to Obama's vision. Even the Romney bus sends this message. It has been redesigned on the outside to read "The Romney Plan."
Mitt Romney's choice of Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate represents a dramatic departure from what had been widely taken, to this point, as Romney's basic theory of this election: That the key battle would be, as his advisor Kevin Madden once put it, "a referendum on the economy."

That theory produced a campaign whose key skill was deflection. Romney spent much of this year trying to turn the subject of the campaign back to the economy, and to pin the bulk of the blame for it on President Barack Obama.

The presidential campaign has proven too intense, however, to allow a major party candidate to run as a cipher. And as Romney has lost traction on Obama while seeing his own character and policy defined by Democrats, he has chosen a dramatically different tack.

Ezra Klein
Romney’s original intention was to make the 2012 election a referendum on President Obama’s management of the economy. Ryan makes it a choice between two competing plans for deficit reduction. This election increasingly resembles the Obama campaign’s strategy rather than the Romney campaign’s strategy.
Nate Silver
The theme that Mr. Romney’s campaign has emphasized for months and months — that the president has failed as an economic leader — may have persuaded 47 or 48 or 49 percent of voters to back him, he seems to have concluded. But not 50.1 percent of them, and not enough for Mr. Romney to secure 270 electoral votes.
Now Mitt Romney has to start over. Do not pass Go, but for sure he'll collect his $200.  The first months of the campaign are a wash for him. Hopefully Paul Ryan can give his campaign a much needed identity but the risk is it will make him even more of a cipher.
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