The short version of Mitt Romney’s first appearance on Fox News since Rick Santorum dropped out of the presidential primary: Women and Latinos, I’m your man.
And so begins that great American presidential campaign tradition, the pivot to the center.
To be competitive in the fall against President Obama, Romney will need to shake the bad taste he’s left in the mouths of independents and women after a bruising primary. As he’s said in the past, Romney told Fox he’s got the solution to both those problems well in hand.
• Women: Romney continued his freshly hatched campaign strategy of trying to turn women against Obama by declaring the president to be the real political enemy of America’s female electorate.
“He’s lost 800,000 jobs during his presidency and by the way, do you know what percentage of those jobs lost were lost by women?” Romney said. “Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women. His polices have been really a war on women.”
Fact-checkers have attacked Romney’s 92 percent charge, noting that the same pattern has existed in previous recessions and isn’t specific to Obama. But that doesn’t mean Romney is likely to part with it any time soon.
• Latinos: Romney’s still looking for the right strategy when it comes to repairing his problem with the Latino vote, which he turned off with his talk of immigration crackdowns. Once again, Romney said it’s Obama who has the real problem with Latinos (an idea not borne out by polling data).
“This president’s polices have failed them,” Romney said of Latinos. “Look at unemployment rates among Hispanics and other ethnic groups. They’ve suffered.”
• The Party Faithful: Romney’s other big focus is uniting the GOP behind him. Republican voters, by and large, were less than thrilled with Romney as their likely nominee — hence, an underfunded Santorum hanging in longer than anyone thought possible. Romney needs to fire them up. Despite polls showing an enthusiasm gap and primary campaigns that showed him often losing big chunks of the GOP electorate, Romney said he has the magic bullet when it comes to GOP reunification.
“I think you see our party and you will see our party more united than it’s been in a long, long time,” Romney said confidently, “in part because President Obama has taken America in such a different course than we have ever gone as a nation before.”
• Independents: The primary-to-general election shift isn’t just about women, Latinos and uniting the GOP. It’s about wooing independents and persuading them that he is no right-wing ideologue. Romney took a first stab by giving some roundabout praise to Bill Clinton. This is not the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in the “severely conservative” phase of Romney’s primary effort.
“I think this president represents a throwback to the old style Democrats of the past. Big-government, welfare-state Democrats,” Romney said. “And that most Democrats have moved away from that, under Bill Clinton and others, have said look, ‘We want small government, smaller taxes a stronger economy’. This president has gone the wrong way. I think Democrats increasingly recognize that, independents do.”