It is getting difficult to see how Mitt Romney wins in November, but let us be imaginative and offer some suggestions to keep up the suspense.
After a bad month of gaffes -- such as forgetting to mention, in his speech accepting the GOP nomination, Afghanistan and our soldiers who have been at war for 10 years -- Romney is still reeling from the impact of his now-infamous off-the-cuff remarks in Boca Raton, Fla. At a dinner for which guests paid $50,000 each, he arrogantly dismissed 47 percent of Americans as moochers who get government aid, pay no federal income taxes and don't take responsibility for their lives.
(Presumably, he was not talking about tax loopholes Congress gave rich people such as himself, so he pays only 13 percent in taxes. No, he was talking about the elderly, veterans and those who earn too little to pay federal income tax, although they do pay federal payroll taxes and state, sales and local taxes. One wonders what more a single mother working at a minimum-wage job should do to take responsibility for her life.)
Romney is now lagging in the polls in key battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan. But there is some hope for him:
-- Money. Although he should be out begging our forgiveness for his lack of understanding of how the 99 percent live, he continues going to off-the-record fundraisers. Of Forbes magazine's 400 richest Americans (they are worth $1.7 trillion, collectively), more are giving to Romney and super PACs supporting him than are giving to President Barack Obama. Money buys TV ads, which spew false accusations such as that Obama is gutting the work requirement for welfare recipients.
-- Voter registration restrictions. With almost half the states instituting new requirements to vote, such as requiring time-consuming new IDs or limiting early voting, thousands of elderly and minority voters may be turned away from the polls. Republicans who pushed through these laws -- in the absence of data that there is widespread voting fraud -- hope the restrictions benefit Romney.
-- Provide specifics. So far, Romney has grandly promised he will "create" jobs and spur economic growth. But he has given us no details except that he wants to cut government spending, lower tax rates on the wealthy and get rid of regulations that govern most businesses. He has not said what he would cut. Social Security? Medicare? Tax deductions for home ownership and employer-provided health care? Government efforts to provide clean water and air and safe food? Food assistance for mothers and children?
-- Stop spending weekends at his many vacation homes and do more retail politics. He's finally been persuaded to do a bus tour in Ohio, for example, because no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio.
-- Hope for more bad economic news or grim developments abroad. This will remind uncertain voters of their disappointment with Obama. Romney's most effective ad was giving voters permission to change horses in midstream because Obama got hit with so many disasters he couldn't keep all his promises in four years.
It's astonishing that we still don't know who Mitt Romney is. Is he a pragmatist? An optimist? A visionary? A moderate who has moved far right on social and fiscal issues, promoting class warfare to appeal to the conservative base? Or is he a true conservative who is sorry he was once pro-choice, believed the science behind global climate change and instituted health care reform in Massachusetts?
Does he have little compassion for those who are struggling, as he indicated to his rich friends? If he believes so strongly in America, why does he keep his money in offshore bank accounts, refuse to divulge his tax returns and send U.S. jobs overseas?
Does he really favor war with Iran? Just how would he "get tough" with China?
Maybe we'll find out who he is. Maybe we won't.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.)