"It doesn't need a turnaround. We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president to the United States."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney sounded a confident note on "60 Minutes" Sunday with just over six weeks to go before voters decide whether President Obama deserves a second term. Romney said his campaign team is doing "a very good job" and knows how to win. He promised he'd remain focused on the economy as he appeals to people who are undecided ahead of the Nov. 6 contest.
But the path to victory remains narrow for Romney, and the trend hasn't been in his favor. A host of new polls have led analysts to reconsider forecasts in battleground states.
In a New York Times Magazine piece over the weekend, Nate Silverdetailed the types of states Romney must win and added the caveat that "it's conceivable that either candidate could pull a George W. Bush and win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote."
He looked at the spectrum of states that play an important role in the electoral calculus, with each cross-section presenting challenges for Romney.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on Monday looked closer at the 2004 presidential race, specifically states Bush won -- Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio and Florida -- writing that, "If Romney was able to exactly follow Bush's 2004 winning map, he would wind up with 292 electoral votes -- as a result of population changes reflected in the decennial reapportionment of congressional seats in 2011-- but that scenario seems unlikely."
The other problem for Romney when it comes to comparing Bush's 2004 map with his own blueprint for 2012 is that while there are plenty of states that Bush won where Romney will or could lose, there are very few states that Bush lost where Romney looks to come out on top.
Wisconsin is Romney's best chance to turn a blue state in 2004 into a red state in 2012. Obama's trip to Milwaukee on Saturday -- his first since February -- suggests that his campaign may be worried about the numbers, but, again, the latest independent polling in the Badger State pegs Obama to a mid-single-digit lead. New Hampshire is another state Romney, who spent four years as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, could turn blue to red in 2012.
Aside from those two states, there is little evidence that Romney can or will expand the Bush 2004 map.
The "60 Minutes" interviews allowed Romney and President Obama to outline his reasons for why he deserves to win. CBS News' Scott Pelley pressured Romney to outline policy specifics.
Pelley: You're asking the American people to hire you as president of the United States. >They'd like to hear some specifics:
Romney: Well, I can tell them specifically what my policy looks like. I will not raise taxes on middle income folks. I will not lower the share of taxes paid by high income individuals. And I will make sure that we bring down rates, we limit deductions and exemptions so we can keep the progressivity in the code, and we encourage growth in jobs.
Pelley: And the devil's in the details, though. What are we talking about, the mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction?
Romney: The devil's in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.
Pelley: You have heard the criticism, I'm sure, that your campaign can be vague about some things. And I wonder if this isn't precisely one of those things?
Romney: It's very much consistent with my experience as a governor which is, if you want to work together with people across the aisle, you lay out your principles and your policy, you work together with them, but you don't hand them a complete document and say, "Here, take this or leave it." Look, leadership is not a take it or leave it thing. We've seen too much of that in Washington.
Pelley: You talk about balancing the budget without raising taxes. But to do that, you would have to have trillions of dollars in budget cuts. So let's be specific in this interview: What would you cut?
(The Washington Post's David Fahrentold has more here on the lack of specifics emerging from either side.)
During his section of the Sunday special, CBS News' Steve Kroft pushed President Obama on how he'd manage any change if given a second term, especially given his inability to forge a meaningful deal with Congress on taxes.
Obama: I take full responsibility for everything that we do, Steve. But you're asking two different questions. You're asking question, number one, have I been able to get every plan that would work through a Republican Congress that said it's number one priority was beating me as opposed to helping the American people? And there is no doubt that I've been disappointed in trying to get more cooperation from those folks. And that's something that we're going to have to continue to do. The second question you're asking, though, is has what we've done worked?
And the fact of the matter is that what we've done has been effective in improving the situation in every area that we're talking about. You know, when I made the decision to save the auto industry, that saved a million jobs. One in eight jobs in Ohio is dependent on the auto industry. So we've actually seen success.
Kroft: How are you going to get the Republicans to agree to a tax increase for the top two percent? You've been trying for a year. You haven't been able to do it. And you've got a majority of Republicans in Congress, including Gov. Romney, who has signed a pledge never to increase taxes under any circumstances.
Obama: Yeah, well, we--
Kroft: How are you going to get them to change their minds and make this deal?
Obama: I won't get them to-- make them change their minds. The American people will. I mean, ultimately, the American people agree with me that the only way we bring down our deficit is to do it in a balanced way. So, keep in mind, I've agreed with the Republicans. And we've already cut a trillion dollars of spending. And I've told them I'm prepared to do additional spending cuts and do some entitlement reform. But what I've said is, "You can't ask me to make student loans higher for kids who need it or ask seniors to pay more for their Medicare or throw people off of health care and not ask somebody like me or Mr. Romney to do anything, not ask us to do a single dime's worth of sacrifice."
The NewsHour reported on the particulars. Watch the segment here or below:
The president's team is keeping up its drumbeat on Romney's returns with a new spot in Ohio released Monday. The ad shows video from Romney's May fundraiser that scrambled the race last week and closes with, "Instead of attacking others on taxes Romney should come clean on his."
Tune into NPR on Monday to hear Ari Shapiro's piece on Colorado Springs and the inundation of political ads on the airwaves, and watch him on Monday's NewsHour discussing his reporting.
The packages are part of a NewsHour/NPR collaboration with Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group that explores political ad data. We've been bringing you daily bits in this space about the on-air spots, and our reporters will give you more throughout the campaign season.
(If you're looking for races up and down the ballot, Roll Call's Abby Livingston has been tracking political ads.)
MARK AND DAVID
On Friday's NewsHour, Mark Shields and David Brooks each looked at what Romney must do before Nov. 6. David said the 47 percent video has "energized Democrats" and "completely demoralized Republicans, both on confidence grounds for a lot of people, for all Republicans, and on moral offensiveness grounds for a lot of Republicans."
He added his own assessment of how Romney is doing:
And with Mitt Romney, he's faking it. I think he's a non-ideological guy running in an ideological age who is pretending to be way more ideological than he really is. And so he talks like he has this cartoon image of how I'm supposed to be talking.
Mark said Romney must start getting specific. "He can't wait for Barack Obama to stumble and split an infinitive in the first debate, and hope that that is somehow the magic in the bottle."
When somebody gets in trouble -- and victory has a fragrance all its own, and so does defeat. And people start to move away from you.
They clamor. If you are leading, Judy, and you're a presidential candidate, they want to be seen in every picture. They're pushing to get on the platform. They're calling in all the chits.
All of a sudden, when are you in trouble, they remember that their nephew is graduating from driving school that day and they can't be with you.
And watch Christina chat with the guys in the Doubleheader about Rep. Paul Ryan's obsession with P90X and the Washington Nationals.
LISTENING TO VIRGINIANS
NewsHour politics desk assistant Geoffrey Guray writes that while campaigning in Northern Virginia on Friday, President Obama doubled down on his recent statement that "you can't change Washington from the inside" and continued to criticize Romney for his comments about his supporters during a private fundraiser in May.
Mr. Obama's remark about Washington politics, which came during a Univision News town hall on Thursday, drew a swift and sharp response from Romney, who was in Florida for a campaign rally. "We'll get the job done from the inside," he told supporters just hours after the president's interview with Univision. "His slogan was 'Yes, we can.' His slogan now is 'No, I can't.' This is time for a new president."
The president's defense in Woodbridge, Va.: "You can't change Washington just from the inside. You change it from the outside. You change it because people are mobilized." And he took aim at Romney's response, saying of the Republican nominee, "He stood up at a rally and proudly declared, 'I'll get the job done from the inside.' What kind of inside job is he talking about?"
The president also made references to "the 47 percent," telling people at the rally, "I don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims, who think that they're not interested in taking responsibility for their own lives. I don't see a lot of victims in this crowd today."