The retreat in US manufacturing levels and the tepid job creation statistics will probably mean another cycle on the political seesawing between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, ending a bad period for Mitt Romney.
The month had started with alarm in the Democratic camp over the possibility that their champion could be beaten, with the much derided Romney proving more formidable than expected.
By the second half of the month, the situation had reversed itself and Republicans were questioning both Romney and his campaign staff. The questions that had surrounded Romney during the primary campaign had resurfaced, with the doubts expressed by sympathetic voices in the Rupert Murdoch media empire (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post) as well as by 3M (media mogul Murdoch) himself.
Romney was being torched in the press on outsourcing jobs and tax avoidance - and his team appeared listless and sluggish in responding. An increasing number of sympathizers basically questioned his reprise of the" it’s the economy stupid" campaign that carried Clinton to the White House.
Nobody disagreed with the fact that Romney's strong suit, as born out in repeated polling, is the perception of his economic competence compared with skepticism about Barack Obama's. Romney, however, appeared to give the impression that he was willing to coast along, letting the economic ebb tide carry him to victory without indicating to voters how he intended to steer the ship off the economic shoals.
The best presentation of this concern was provided by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who chided Romney for employing a" prevent" defense in the 2nd quarter of the game while the Romney team was still trailing Barack Obama.
(This writer thought that Kristol's comparison was excellent and loved it - as an unreconstructed American football fan. I have consistently believed that the prevent defense, where a team essentially gives up the initiative and aggressiveness and is fixed on allowing its opponent short and intermediate gains while denying the long ball, is one of the most self-defeating tactics in professional sports.)
The fear of excessive conservatism has been voiced before by the Wisconsin duo of Governor Scott Walker and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Ryan is no longer a hot item in the Romney veepstakes. Perhaps in the Romney inner circle, Ryan, who wants Romney to tackle entitlements head on, presents too big a target for scare tactics.
Challengers have the luxury of using ambiguity. Obama did quite well for himself by employing the "we want change" slogan without spelling out the nature of the change.
The critics, however, are probably right in assuming that Romney will not be able to play the same hand. The media will ask him to reveal his cards, although they never called on Obama to do so in 2008.