John Podhoretz, writing today over at Contentions, provides the most trenchant analysis of the state of the Romney campaign that I've come across anywhere. An extended excerpt, very much worth reading:
The line from Romney headquarters last month was “every day we’re not talking about the economy is a day we lose.” This line, which came from the highest reaches of the campaign, was proffered to explain the unwillingness to provide substantive details on a host of policies besides the economy. Well, Romney HQ isn’t talking about the economy these days. It’s talking about the ad that all but accused Romney of murdering a woman with cancer. It’s talking about its vice-presidential pick. It’s talking about whether its ad accusing the president of gutting welfare-to-work laws is accurate. Guess what? It turns out you can’t just talk about the economy when people—and the media—want to talk about something else.
The polls suggesting he’s seven or nine points behind are surely wrong, but given that there is only one national poll that shows him ahead, we have to presume Romney is behind....
[Romney]...is not, at root, an ideological person. Neither, at root, are [the people running his campaign].... And the data suggest this is not a time for a sharply ideological campaign. The data suggest Romney needs to run as Mr. Fix-It. That is how Romney prefers to view himself. So the two match perfectly.
Alas for him, that’s not how it works. If conservative ideology is a problem with some independents, it also has the virtue of providing those who use it [with a way] to discuss the nation’s problems.... Romney has just learned over the past few weeks that he cannot limit the discussion to the topics he wishes to talk about, especially when his rival is spending $100 million trying to destroy him in the swing states and when the media are largely serving his purposes by acting as though an increase in the unemployment rate and utterly unimpressive jobs-creation numbers are somehow good news.
So here’s why he should be talking about other things, releasing plans, giving speeches on big topics—because it’s the only way he can control the discussion.
John's analysis strikes me as entirely correct.