Mitt Romney's personal approval ratings are still in negative territory, having remained fairly static in recent months. The Obama campaign of personal destruction has had something to do with that and it leaves the GOP in a quandary regarding what to do to blunt the fact that more Americans have an unfavorable view of Mitt than favorable.
The solution: focus on Romney's competence and professionalism at the convention in order to convince the voter that even if you don't like Mitt much, he will be better for the economy than the clueless Obama.
Mitt Romney's advisers are orchestrating a four-day Republican National Convention that is not so much designed to make Americans fall in love with the nominee, but rather to fall in like with the idea of him as the nation's leader and a uniquely qualified businessman who can fix the economy.
The decision to focus heavily on Romney's career background and economic policies is a departure from most conventions, which tend to mainly try to build a personal connection between the candidate and voters, especially for first-time nominees. It is also a tacit acknowledgment that Romney cannot win over enough swing voters by highlighting his personality and telling his life story alone.
Romney has struggled to connect with voters all year and has been battered all summer by attack ads from President Obama's campaign. That has put his approval rating at 40 percent, among the lowest of all time at this point in a campaign, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this month.
With less than three months to go and much ground to make up, his advisers believe that their best bet is to convince Americans that, love him or not, Romney is the solution to their problems. The Tampa convention's theme - "A Better Future" - which organizers announced on Friday, underscores that calculation.
"We have the opportunity over four nights to present a case to the American people of why and how Barack Obama has failed and why Mitt Romney can do better and what he would do to make specific changes to turn around the economy," said Russ Schriefer, a senior adviser who has decamped to Tampa to oversee the convention, which starts on Aug. 27.
"Who Governor Romney is is an important part of telling that story," Schriefer added. "But the convention is not only going to focus on that. We're going to talk about what the American people really care about, which is how can Governor Romney make their lives better."
An expert at turning companies around can turn the American economy around too. That may sell, although competence is a difficult concept to get across. One thing that strategists will be doing is presenting a contrast between the performance of Obama in office, and the performance of Romney at any job he's held. Can they successfully equate the mess Romney inherited for the Salt Lake Olympics with the problems Obama faced when he came into office? Probably not, but it will keep the conversation where Romney wants it - on the economy and the failure of Obama's policies.