See Mitt Run By Mark Halperin

What Republican pros say their nominee must do to win

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Photo-illustration: Wes Duvall for TIME; Romney: Evan Vucci/AP

With Mitt Romney locked in a tough fight for the White House, Republican strategists inside and outside his campaign are mentally composing a long to-do list for the former Massachusetts governor to bolster his chances on Election Day ...

Foremost on that list: Make an impression. Romney must introduce himself to the wider electorate during the convention in Tampa with a killer acceptance speech that keeps voters and the press talking all the way through his rival's oration in Charlotte, N.C. ...

Accentuate his running mate's pluses. By November, will Paul Ryan be seen as a vibrant, unambiguously qualified, innovative reformer--or an overeager whippersnapper ready to gut Medicare and lavish millionaires with tax breaks? Romney needs to accent his junior partner's strengths while shifting the focus back to himself ...

Play down the social issues. The reaction to Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's outrageous statements about rape and pregnancy showed just how easily Romney's effort can be sidetracked, even when he acts fast to head off trouble. The former governor has to keep the conversation on the economy, avoiding diversions that energize Democrats, addle Republicans and alarm voters ...

Bring out his best side. Romney must release his happy warrior and bury his preachy, petulant, kvetchy side. While he will never match Barack Obama in the charm department, Romney can be likable enough when engaged, relaxed, confident and can-do--a persona that comes naturally to the instinctively upbeat businessman. Throughout the summer, he has too often displayed defensiveness and pique and stress ...

Create the story. Romney must offer up the kind of grand, decisive gestures and leader-like comments that are Obama's stock in trade rather than react to the news of the day ...

Spend productively. Romney and his allies are expected to have a major cash advantage from Labor Day onward, but money raised doesn't automatically translate into money well spent. Team Romney needs a burst of smart TV ads, crafty staff hires and creative vision to maximize all those contributions ...

Fight Medicare to a draw--carefully. Never has a Republican campaign been as well positioned to become the preserver of health care options and quality care for the elderly. And yet Romney could lose the race on this issue alone. He picked the fight; now he has to sharpen his message and engage ...

Make some purple states red and some blue states purple. Can Ryan's Wisconsin or Joe Biden's birth state of Pennsylvania be put in play? How about effectively securing North Carolina and Arizona? That would smooth the way to engage in more offense in the half-dozen states that Obama won in 2008 that Romney must capture to prevail ...

Harness the four M's. Romney, once and for all, has to make the big chapters of his life a tangible positive for voters: his time as Massachusetts' governor, his Mormon faith, the money he made at Bain Capital and his record of rigorous management, including the Salt Lake City Olympics. Romney must present a case linking those experiences and achievements to what he would do in the Oval Office ...

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