Mitt Romney's campaign said on Monday that it would get more specific about the candidate's legislative priorities, a nod to criticism from fellow Republicans that their nominee needs to release more policy details.
Aides refused to describe the action as a pivot or change in direction, instead calling it the "natural progression" following a convention that focused on Romney's personal side, but the move comes amid growing anxiety that President Obama is solidifying his lead in the race.
To aid in that effort, the campaign released two new ads on Monday detailing Romney's five-point economic plan and criticizing Obama's record. The campaign is also building expectations for a speech Monday afternoon at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles, where it says the candidate will highlight more policy specifics.
"We think the American people are looking forward to hearing how we can turn the economy around," Gillespie said. "They’re open to proposals."
But the Romney team also admitted that it had not done enough to distinguish its economic vision from that of the incumbent president. A poll released last week from The New York Times and CBS News showed Obama with a 47-46 percent lead on fixing the economy and unemployment — a significant improvement over surveys conducted earlier this year that showed the Republican challenger with an edge.
"I’m not sure that voters really understand the differences for the plans that Romney has and Obama has," said Neil Newhouse, who serves as chief pollster for the Romney campaign.
The campaign detailed a series of specific ideas — some new, some campaign mainstays — it says it will highlight for voters in coming days: energy independence by 2020, linking government compensation to that of the private sector, and limiting spending for certain government programs to the rate of inflation.
But it remained elusive on other issues. Asked if the change of strategy meant that the campaign would specifically outline the tax loopholes and deductions it would close to afford Romney's proposed tax cuts, Gillespie instead gave an answer on energy independence.
The Obama campaign blasted an email to reporters shortly before the call begging that same question, arguing "the very economists you’ve been citing to tout your tax plan say you’d have to cut middle class deductions like those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions to make it revenue neutral."
"He’s refused to provide any details to back up his promises because, as his advisers have said, it would be 'suicidal' to do so," said Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner. "The American people are still waiting for answers to serious questions, so will the Romney campaign answer these today?"
It's not just Democrats who are criticizing Romney.
Republican lawmakers told The Hill last week Romney needs to change the direction of his campaign.
"You’ve got to show details," one GOP lawmaker said.
But the Romney campaign hopes that by branding its new push, it will appear more substantive while bringing an economic discussion back into the campaign. That's especially important after a weekend of articles that highlighted internal finger-pointing within the campaign and a growing sense that the president's lead in crucial swing states was becoming a serious problem — the type of stories that often precede a major campaign shake-up or indicate a candidate in serious trouble.
It's also intended to push back against concerns among some of Romney's top Republican allies that its candidate isn't doing enough to promote his conservative vision. While there is genuine concern that voters might be turned off by deep cuts to popular government programs, strategists worry that by purposely obfuscating details, Romney looks like a man with something to hide. With GOP allies expressing increasing frustrations with a run-out-the-clock strategy that banks on a poor economy dooming Obama, Team Romney hopes the new strategy can reinvigorate his base.
The Romney campaign also hopes that the new push could turn the attacks back on the president.
"[Voters] also are curious about President Obama and what he would do in his second term if he were to be re-elected, they haven't heard many details from him or many policy proposals at all from him," said Gillespie. "But we are looking forward to this new emphasis and renewed emphasis."