Romney campaign to change message

Mitt Romney's campaign on Monday said it would debut a new "change in message" that looked not just to criticize President Obama's record, but to paint a contrast for voters of the next four years.

"We are talking not only on the president's performance over the past four years, but the cost of his policies going forward," Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said during a conference call with reporters, repeatedly emphasizing that the campaign would argue "how four more years of the last four years is not going to be good for the American people."

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That new strategy will involve a renewed focus on China and trade policy — a particularly salient issue as both candidates travel extensively in the manufacturing-oriented state of Ohio this week. Obama has consistently held a small lead in polls of the Buckeye State, and no Republican has ever won the presidency without securing Ohio.

"I think it's clear that the message on China has resonated not only with the voters, but you can tell with the response from the Obama campaign," Gillespie said. "They went up with an ad in response to it on China, and on top of that, the administration filed a case."

Gillespie was referencing a World Trade Organization case filed last week by the Obama administration charging China with unfairly subsidizing automobile parts. Romney had begun airing ads accusing Obama of being too lenient with China a few days before. 

The Romney adviser said there was "no doubt" that the issue was "particularly resonant in Ohio" — a statement further evidenced by the fact that Obama announced the trade case during a campaign stop in Cincinnati.

The renewed push on China is one of many lines of attack the Republican challenger has adopted in recent days. He also has highlighted comments Obama made in 1998 about his support for "redistribution"; attacked the president's assertion that "you can't change Washington from the inside"; mocked Obama for saying during a "60 Minutes" interview that recent Middle East turmoil was akin to "bumps in the road"; and pledged last week to focus on the policy details of his economic plan. At the same time, Romney has been playing defense on his "47 percent" comments, recorded secretly at a fundraiser earlier this year, and the release of new tax documents last Friday.

But Gillespie downplayed the notion that the Romney team was trying to do too much.

"We are talking about the economy and the need for more jobs, more take-home pay, and the Romney plan for a stronger middle class, and we've been talking about that for a long time, as we said," Gillespie said. "Part of that is trade."

In a memo released Monday, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt dismissed Romney's new strategy as "another new message."

"The unfortunate thing for Romney is that while he accuses the president of not stopping China from 'cheating,' we now know that Romney has continued to invest in China," LaBolt says. "As he rolls his bus through the many Ohio towns that are benefiting from the president’s actions to save the auto industry and protect American workers from unfair Chinese trade practices, Mitt Romney will, as they say, have some explaining to do."

The Romney adviser said that plans were for Romney to begin hitting the trail with more frequency, rather than spending as much time as he had been fundraising.

"We're going to reach a point here, hopefully soon, where we'll have the resources we need to carry us through Nov. 6, so we won't need to do those finance events," Gillespie said.

Noting that Romney was the first Republican candidate to forgo public financing, Gillespie stressed it was "important to have the resources" to compete with the president's campaign. But, the Romney aide said, the campaign was "looking forward" to being "able to concentrate on being in target states for an increasing period."

Romney and running mate Paul Ryan will do just that with a planned bus tour through Ohio that begins Monday with a rally featuring the Wisconsin lawmaker. Romney will hold a rally of his own in Colorado on Monday, before flying to Ohio and meeting Ryan on Tuesday.

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