Two popular political analysts from opposite sides of the aisle agreed on Saturday that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has to change the election conversation during debates in October.
James Carville, a Democratic pundit and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, said that the best way for the former Massachusetts governor to regain momentum and overcome President Barack Obama's small – about 4% -- but steady lead is to make the election more about how to improve the economy and less about Mr. Romney himself.
“He has to frame it [as]: Who understands the problem and who can best solve the problem?” Mr. Carville told the audience at the opening session of the Financial Planning Association's annual conference, FPA Experience 2012, in San Antonio.
So far, Mr. Obama has successfully focused the campaign on the question of who cares more about the economic plight of the average American and has come across as more empathetic than Mr. Romney, according to Mr. Carville.
Mary Matalin, a Republican pundit and Mr. Carville's wife, dismissed the notion that Mr. Romney is doomed. She said that Mr. Obama has a small but far from insurmountable lead.
“He's not surged and Romney's not tanking,” Ms. Matalin said.
Although there aren't many undecided voters, there are “soft” voters who can be persuaded by the debates, according to Ms. Matalin.
“They still don't know enough about Romney,” Ms. Matalin said. “They're waiting for the debates to hear what a Romney presidency would look like.”
The first contest is Oct. 3. It will be an opportunity for each candidate to talk to voters in more depth than they do in the multi-million-dollar cascade of advertising that is blanketing swing states such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida.
The pitches, however, haven't moved an electorate knows what it thinks about each candidate, according to Mr. Carville.
“The effect of political advertising has been almost zilch,” Mr. Carville said. “Generally, people's minds have been pretty well made up.”
At the beginning of his presentation, Mr. Carville indicated that most of the investment advisers in the room likely did not share his political leaning.
“Welcome all you Democrats,” Mr. Carville joked. “Both of you.”