Politics Counts: Romney’s Top Task Is Selling His Economic Plan

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You are Mitt Romney. Your presidential run has survived early apathy, a nasty primary campaign and a hurricane. On Thursday, you get your one big night alone on stage to lay out who you are and what you believe. What do you say?

Despite the steady stream of talk about humanizing Mr. Romney or warming up his image, the numbers suggest that what he really may need is specifics.

Throughout this election season Patchwork Nation has used its demographic/geographic breakdown of counties to examine the numbers from The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Those numbers show some hopeful signs for Mr. Romney and some concerns. But, more to the point, they suggest Mr. Romney’s most important sales job may be on his economic plan particularly for the middle class.

 When you look closely at the poll numbers there would seem to be some communities that are just waiting for a reason to vote for Mr. Romney.

Consider the small-town rural Service Worker Center counties (in red on the map below). They disapprove of way President Barack Obama has handled the economy by a large margin – 60% disapproval to 36% approval. They disapprove of the way Mr. Obama is handling his job – 53% to 40%. A full 65% of the people in those 660 counties believe the economy is not recovering.

Yet, Mr. Romney has not been able to truly distance himself in the Service Worker Centers from Mr. Obama. His lead in those counties stands at about 8 percentage points for the year – last month he was essentially even with Mr. Obama there. If the eight-point margin holds it would be four percentage points better than Sen. John McCain did in these counties in 2008, but the number still seems low considering the discontent in them toward Mr. Obama. For the rest of this Politics Counts column, please visit the Wall Street Journal's website.