If there's one thing the media won't tolerate for long, it's an unchanging media narrative. So the current story of the presidential campaign -- Obama sits on a lead that is modest but increasingly comfortable, thanks to a hapless Romney and a hapless Romney campaign -- should be yielding any moment to something fresher.
The essential property of the new narrative is that it inject new drama into the race, which means it has to be in some sense pro-Romney. This can in turn mean finding previously unappreciated assets in Romney or his campaign, previously undetected vulnerabilities in the Obama campaign, etc. The big question is whether the new narrative then becomes self-fulfilling, altering the focus of coverage in a way that actually increases Romney's chances of a victory. And that depends on the narrative's exact ingredients. Here are some candidate memes:1. Romney has a previously undiscovered sense of humor! Here apologies are due to my Atlantic colleague Molly Ball, who, actually, discovered Romney's sense of humor some time ago. Sorry, Molly, but I'm afraid your discovery will have to be shrouded in obscurity, because the meta-narrative governing new narratives dictates that their ingredients be fresh and surprising. Man must bite dog! There has to be a new Mitt, an unexpected Mitt, so that suddenly all bets are off. For example, a little joke Romney makes at the Clinton Global Initiative has to seem so refreshingly unexpected that it makes headlines.2. Sudden and unexpected foreign policy switcheroo! Whereas Obama had seemed to have an edge in the realm of national security and foreign policy over Romney (who, you may recall, has never ever killed Osama bin Laden), suddenly the tables turn! Actually, this narrative is already starting to take shape. After being widely panned for his too-early exploitation of the uprising over "Innocence of Muslims," a chastened Romney did some not-too-early exploitation of it that was received more warmly. And, helpfully, Obama has been far from sure-footed. Asking YouTube whether the video in question complies with its standards played into Romney's "apology" trope; calling Israel " one of our closest allies in the region" was a pre-packaged Romney Florida ad; "bumps in the road" was an unfortunate turn of phrase; and so on. Speaking of bumps in the road: