WASHINGTON -- A common complaint from Republicans friendly to Mitt Romney's campaign, but outside it, has been that the campaign has been knocked off message far too frequently, going back to the summer months.
The Democrats' attacks on Bain Capital were the beginning, the argument goes, and even announcing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as Romney's running mate took the Republican presidential nominee away from the jobs-and-economy focus.
Just in the last few weeks, the Romney campaign's message of the day has jumped around quite a bit, from foreign policy after the embassy attacks on Sept. 11, to China, to labeling Obama a redistributionist, to hitting the president for saying he can't change Washington "from the inside."
Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie told reporters on Monday that "we're going to comment on the news of the day to the extent that it warrants a response from Governor Romney, but we try to keep it consistent with the larger message about the need for more jobs, more take home pay, and the contrast."
But on a broader plane, the Romney campaign's entire approach to the race has changed, from that of a referendum on Obama to a choice between the two candidates.
On Monday, Gillespie -- when asked by The Huffington Post -- admitted that there has been a shift, but said it is based off the prior messaging about Obama's record.
"We're going to continue to talk about the failures of the president's policies, but as I noted here, we're going to talk about that in a forward frame, in a forward-looking discussion about how four more years of the last four years is not going to be good for the American people. And so as we go into these first debates we do see an opportunity to put a greater emphasis on that choice," Gillespie said.
"So to a certain extent it is a change in message focus, the focus and the emphasis on the side of choice. But that choice is based on what we know about the president's performance in office, and his policies," he said.
Nonetheless, a choice election, rather than a referendum, is what David Axelrod and Obama's other top advisers have wanted and have pushed for going back to 2011.
The fact that the Romney campaign is playing within the Obama campaign's parameters, and seems to be pivoting to a different message or theme every few days, combined with the overall trend of the polls right now, is plenty of cause for concern among Republicans.
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