Governor Romney had a great week. He was able to articulate what many independents and Democrats believe is the fundamental description of President Obama. The president is a nice guy, but we can do better economically when he is writing his memoirs. That is why after Senator Santorum’s suspension the governor pulled close to even in the national polls.
Governor Romney needs to have many weeks where he talks about tax reform, entitlement reform, regulatory reform, and a pro-growth economic and energy policy that generates at least 3 if not 4 percent growth. That is a vision that brings down unemployment and debt rapidly.
What Romney needs to avoid is anything to do with abortion, contraception, women’s rights, voter fraud, gay rights, and almost anything else Senator Santorum discussed in the primary. With the exception of abortion, all of the Republican social issues are national losers.
Some of Speaker Gingrich’s big ideas, as long as they solely focused on the economy, might help Romney shed his tendency to technocracy. Romeny’s two hundred point plan is for pundits. He needs a simple theme of economic renewal: universal tax reform with no favorites; elimination of the Departments of Commerce, Education, and HUD; and a neutral energy policy with federal focus on R&D and speedier federal permitting and environmental review. Get the message down to the brevity and simplicity of Reagan’s, cut taxes, cut regulation, and a strong military. How about, “tax reform, eliminate bureaucracies, and clean energy independence.”
Romney needs to go for President Obama’s economic jugular early and often. In addition to comprehensive tax reform and reform of the federal bureaucracy, Governor Romney can paint a broad vision of an energy independent America unshackled from the chains of import slavery. Most of the West where so much of the land is federal is also bursting with natural gas. President Obama has to win Colorado and needs Arizona, Nevada, and other western states. And in no other area is President Obama more vulnerable in the West than energy.
Obama visited Osawatomie, Kansas to deliver a speech primarily arguing a populist message of government intervention in the marketplace at the site of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous New Nationalism speech. But it was Roosevelt’s call for responsible stewardship of productive public lands that makes the speech so relevant today. “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.” Obama missed that just as he apparently missed basic capitalism at Harvard.
It is Governor Romney’s opening. He can make as a centerpiece of his economic message TR’s responsible stewardship. As part of tax reform he could announce the elimination of federal subsidies for all forms of energy – no more tax breaks for oil and gas, no more ethanol subsidies, no more clean energy subsidies outside of R&D. With the price of natural gas at historic lows if the federal government can get out of the way, we can replace coal with natural gas dramatically reducing emissions and foreign imports of oil with cleaner domestic natural gas.
While Obama has spent the last four years investing tax dollars in clean companies his government deemed worthy and halting oil and gas leasing for a permitting process redesign, Governor Romney can promise a level playing field. This was an idea I first heard Democratic Congressman Polis discuss at one of his town halls as a natural compromise for both parties. A neutral federal energy policy saves money, increases revenues, and focuses the federal role in basic R&D where it historically works. It can fund basic research into batteries, dramatically more efficient solar panels, natural gas infrastructure projects, and let industry drive commercial innovation, energy independence, and consumer price reductions.
Or Governor Romney can talk about contraception, women’s issues, invading Syria, traditional marriage, and lose the election.