MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney's big speech here Tuesday night is billed and staged to mark his pivot to the general election, intended to set the tone for the Republican's campaign, and to lay out his overarching message. The title of the speech: "A Better America Begins Tonight."
But this isn't the first time the Romney campaign has tried to "pivot" to his upcoming contest with Obama — particularly according to the press. He tried it last January after winning the New Hampshire primary. He tried it in his Florida victory speech. He tried it throughout his cakewalk campaign in Nevada, then in Michigan, then, again, after Super Tuesday, when aides declared that it would "take an act of God" for Romney to lose the primary — and it was now time to focus on beating Obama.
Since Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier this month — ending the Republican primary for good — reporters (including those at BuzzFeed) have found more than one occasion to declare that Romney was now revamping his message as he "looks forward to the Fall."
Just today, the Associated Press posted a story headlined: "Romney looks to fall election on primary Tuesday."
A quick LexisNexis search returned 96 articles written since the first vote was cast in Iowa discussing a "pivot" to the general election on Romney's part.
Will the 97th time be the charm?
Romney campaign aides apparently hope so, describing the event tonight — held in the same city where the candidate launched his presidential bid last year — as one aimed squarely at the general electorate, not just Republican primary voters.
"We'll see Romney talk about his vision for a more prosperous America and hit on President Obama's false promises and weak leadership," one adviser told BuzzFeed.
But with the Republican primary having effectively ended weeks ago, why is the press still clamoring for a definitive general election pivot?
One reason may be because since Santorum dropped out, little has changed in Romney's campaign approach. He's stuck to variations on the same stump speech — hammering Obama for failed economic policies, then outlining his own plan to cut taxes and "restore the principles that made America great."
Just yesterday, he began to hint at a new posture, leaving the door open to a moderate immigration proposal floated by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and breaking with Congressional Republican opposition to holding down the rates of student loans.
Missing, so far, has been the sort of large, loud moment that will re-orient the election dramatically, bringing he fight to Obama. Critics have sniped for months at the Romney campaign's difficulty in going big, and the occasional disaster when they try. But some Republicans hope tonight will show the campaign finally overcoming this obstacle.
"Tonight is a coda on the phase of the process that started when Santorum dropped out," said GOP strategist Rick Wilson. "The fight is on, and it's time for Romney to show confidence, presence and just a little bit of swagger."