Washington (CNN) – In response to sagging battleground polls and criticism from some Republican party insiders, the Romney campaign – as part of its recalibration – intends to get more specific with its economic message, trying to reach out to the increasing number of voters who believe Mitt Romney doesn't understand their problems.
In interviews with senior Romney advisers and outsiders close to the campaign, the emerging strategy appears to boil down to a simple point: "We need to reassure Americans that Romney can fix things, and he (President Obama) can't," says one campaign insider. "Voters already believe Romney has a better chance of fixing the economy. We have to tell them just how it will be better for them."
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In other words, says this source, "personalize" the economic message. And also Team Romney will try to clarify it – especially in the wake of Romney's secretly recorded comments at a May fund-raiser about how 47% of the country is "dependent" on the government, describing those people as seeing themselves as "victims." On Wednesday, for instance, the GOP nominee went out of his way to tell a Univision audience that "my campaign is about the 100% in America" – the campaign's latest attempt at damage control.
According to one source, the campaign "has not ruled out" a formal domestic policy speech before the debates or the possibility of more television ads with the candidate speaking directly to the camera. It's clear the campaign understands its two key deficits: first, that Romney has all but lost his dominance on the economic management issue. And that the 3-1 disadvantage on the question of "which candidate connects well with ordinary Americans" is unsustainable if the GOP candidate is to win.
While the campaign denies Romney has been mostly MIA on the stump, officials do admit they have spent a significant amount of time fund-raising.
As Romney intensifies his campaign schedule in the coming days, senior advisers say the candidate will be back on his message of job creation. But he will also be more specific about energy (pushing for the Keystone pipeline, proposing more domestic oil production.) On health care, Romney will continue to press his case that the administration's health care overhaul will cost people more money either by seeing their premiums increase or having to pay penalties if they don't get insurance once the law takes effect.
There is a real sense – from those inside and Republicans outside the campaign- that waiting for Romney to rescue himself at the first debate, set for Oct. 3rd, is a bad idea. "The campaign is being framed between now and that debate," says one Romney adviser. Says another GOP strategist, not affiliated with the campaign, "they need to sharpen their message" and "they need to offer more details…they are losing the daily war."
In other words, says a different source close to the campaign, "there is an understanding that we have to shape our environment as much as react to it."
One problem for the Romney campaign itself is that voter optimism about the future appears to be on the upswing. In a CNN/ORC poll earlier this month, 67% percent said they thought economic conditions in the country would be good a year from now while last October 39% responded that way.
As for the mood inside the Romney campaign, sources say there's no widespread sense of gloom. "Nobody around here is hanging their heads," says one adviser. "We are determined, and think we can win this thing. There is no change in attitude."
In fact, another Romney adviser makes the case that Obama's post-convention lead of seven points has disappeared and points to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll which has the race dead even at 47%-47%.
When asked about the decline in Romney numbers in key battlegrounds like Ohio, Florida and Virginia, these aides make the case that the numbers are in flux and close enough to turn around, particularly as the candidate gets more specific about how, as one adviser puts it, "Americans will be better off for the next four years under a President Romney."
And the Romney campaign now believes it cannot wait to make that case in the first debate on October 3.
CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this story.