HOUSTON — GEORGE BUSH, the candidate of change?
It's a "foolish" strategy for the sitting president to suggest he's more of an outsider than Bill Clinton, says Republican strategist Ed Rollins.
"What he should say is `I am going to change.' "
It was unusually frank commentary here in this all-Republican convention landscape where party strategists are employed to put a positive face on the president's lagging ratings.
But Mr. Rollins, who defected briefly to engineer the campaign of the ultimate outsider for change, Ross Perot, isn't on the party payroll this time.
At a Monitor lunch Aug. 17, Rollins suggested that he and others in the GOP had underestimated Governor Clinton's staying power.
Rollins's blunt assessment of President Bush's standing is that he "is in a hole and he's got to close" this gap in the polls between him and Clinton very soon.
"Somehow he's got to reconnect with voters and convince them he's not the George Bush of the last several months.
But the George Bush of a year and a half ago ... who under pressure handled himself extremely well - and that his focus is going to be the domestic economic agenda and [bringing] a new invigorated team to domestic politics."
The convention is the first test of whether Bush can regroup and find rapport with Americans, he says.
"The president has to come out of this convention with a rejuvenated party.... If Republicans aren't saying once again that we can win and we're going to go out and get energized but [instead] spend the next month moaning about the prospects of George Bush taking down the whole Republican Party, then I think we've got a very serious problem and it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy."