Although the Romney campaign will tell you it's not as bad as it looks (and they're probably right), they know they need to turn things around.
Here's what senior Romney advisers tell me is the game plan for the coming weeks. You'll notice no major changes or campaign shake-ups:
- First, Don't Panic. Romney himself sets the tone for the campaign and, as one adviser told me, "He never gets too high; he never gets too low." Romney has seen worse: he faced near death experiences at least twice during the primary (the South Carolina loss, the losses, on the same day, to Santorum in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado).
- Sharper Message. The campaign is promising a "sharper message" in its upcoming advertising blitz. The message will be economy/jobs, of course, and it will be tailored to each state, each media market. In other words, it will hammer Obama on military cuts in Virginia, coal and manufacturing in Ohio, etc.
- More Intense Schedule. Expect Romney to have "a very intense schedule" in the coming weeks - packed with events in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and other key states. This may seem like the obvious thing to do (and it is), but Romney lately has had a strangely light public schedule, with many more closed fundraisers in red states than campaign rallies in battleground states. At one recent Texas fundraiser, I am told, a donor told Romney, "I am happy to write a check, but why are you here? Shouldn't you be in Ohio?"
- The Debates. And, more than anything, they are counting on a strong performance in the debates, especially the first on Oct. 3 in Denver, to pull them ahead of Obama.
How bad does it look? Well, the polls are all over the place. Consider the four national polls out today:
Of course, the battle for 270 electoral votes will be fought in the battleground states and it doesn't look good for Romney there - for the most part, Obama has been holding a steady, but narrow, lead in all of the battleground states.