The Question Mitt Romney Didn’t Answer Last Night
Mitt Romney left one crucial piece out of his speech last night.
In his review of the Republican Convention over at CNN, Republican political strategist Alex Castallanos points out that there’s one question that Mitt Romney did not answer in his Acceptance Speech, and it’s one he’ll have to face up to sooner rather than later:
At some point in a debate, Obama is going to turn and challenge Romney, saying, “Mitt, you have nothing new to offer. In fact, on social issues, foreign policy, taxes, spending, Medicare and everything else, you have nothing different to offer than taking us back to what George Bush proposed. That’s what got us into this mess.” Romney has yet to answer that question. He has until the first presidential debate October 3, in Denver, to find a response.
Castellanos’s comment is well-timed given that we’re only a few days away from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and it’s becoming quite clear that this “return to the past” charge is going to be a central part of the attack on Romney that takes place next week:
The Obama campaign just held a conference call with reporters to discuss the GOP convention and contrast it with plans for their own gathering next week. The most notable tidbit: David Axelrod’s suggestion that Bush’s policies and legacy — but not Bush himself — will be key to the Obama campaign’s effort to draw a sharp contrast between where Romney and Obama would take the economy.
Axelrod joked that Bush the man would get about as much of a mention at the DNC as he did at the RNC — which is to say, almost none at all — but said Bush economics would be very much on the agenda.
“We are going to take issue with the policies that were in place in the last decade, because this is where they want to go back to,” Axelrod said. “These are the policies that they want to embrace once again.”
Dems think Romney erred badly at his convention by focusing too hard on softening his image (which appeared to be a success) without drawing a clearer picture of his plans for the economy. They think that’s created an opening to draw a much more specific road map of their own.
“We try and look at this through the eyes of people who are still considering their choices,” Axelrod said. “They tuned in hoping to hear some practical solutions to the challenges we face.” Instead, Axelrod said, they heard “buzz words for the base.”
Given Axelrod’s comments on the conference call, Castellanos’s observation is well-played. While Republicans such as Jeb Bush have begin to push back on the Obama campaigns continual efforts to blame their inability to impact the economy in a more positive manner on the economic conditions handed to him by his predecessor, it’s also true that George W. Bush remains exceeding unpopular with American voters. So, it’s only natural that the Democrats would seek to tie Romney to Bush era policies that they contend led to the economic collapse (in large regard, that’s a dubious argument, but that’s an argument for another day.) Romney only tends to reinforce that when he speaks in broad generalities rather than getting specific about policies. While I tend to disagree with Steven Taylor that Romney erred in not providing more policy in his speech Thursday night, I do think that the campaign is making a serious error by not responding to the efforts by the Obama camp to tie their candidate to the last Republican President. By not doing so, the Romney campaign makes it very easy for them to do that by not trying to differentiate themselves from a President that even most Republicans seem to realize, albeit not publicly acknowledge, was largely a disaster when it comes to fiscal matters.
Quite frankly, when Romney selected Paul Ryan as his running mate I thought that this is exactly what Romney was trying to do. Say what you will about Ryan’s budget proposals, but they are a sharp break from what was being done during the Bush Administration and they are, at the very least, substantive ideas regardless of what one thinks of them. Instead, as soon as Romney joined the ticket, his plan got swept under the rug and he jumped on board with Romney’s proposals, which meant abandoning several of the central premises of the Path To Prosperity. So, now, they campaign is going to be hammered all next week as being a return to the Bush Era, just as Democrats for decades attacked Republicans as being a return to Hoover, and Republicans attacked Democrats as being a return to Carter. Unless Romney comes up with a way to answer the question that Castellanos brings attention to, he’s going to find a big millstone around his neck with the name “George W. Bush” stamped on it.
Romney has been specific. His tax cuts add $3.4 trillion to the debt.
Attacking Obama for cutting Medicare, while claiming he will protect it, means that he cannot address the major source of our future debt. While this is better than giving us Medicare Part D, it is not adequate.
No Doug – they’re not. They’re not only not substantive, they’re mathematically impossible. There’s nothing substantive there at all – it’s just a bunch of red meat talking points that can’t withstand even the most casual look without falling like a house of cards. His proposals begin, end, and consist entirely of “cut services to & raise taxes on the lower classes to finance military contracts and huge tax breaks for the rich”. Period. There’s nothing else there. It’s no more rational to debate or pursue than just typing “Wave a Magic Wand” over and over and slapping a Grover Norquist Seal of Approval on the file.
Yet the Romney campaign and Ryan himself have bent over backwards to explain that Mitt has his own economic agenda.
Why? Because if people stop taking for granted that Ryan tells the truth, his proposals are toxic to voters young and old.
Why at this point anyone would take that for granted eludes me but it might have something to do with what’s left of the GOP base.
Why wait for another day? I mean no offense, but with the number of posts you write everyday, it isn’t like you don’t have the spare time…why is that argument “dubious”?
That’s all well and good except for the inconvenient fact that Ryan voted for many of Bush’s budget busting schemes…
It’s not Romney. The whole GOP has refused to answer the question. Hell, they refuse to even ask it. Republicans and the right wing blabbermouths have convinced themselves that it was too much spending that did them in.
What did them in was two incompetently prosecuted wars and economic policies that, if they didn’t cause the greatest financial crisis since The Great Depression, were utterly unwilling to offer any solution to that crisis except “Let it all burn”.
The premise of Romney’s campaign is “If you hate Obama, vote for me” – there is not a lot more to it. As others have pointed out, from a policy perspective he is more or less taking us back to the Bush years.
Re. “mathematically impossible” I have a question that might help OTB think this through:
Are you political bloggers, or policy bloggers?
If you are political bloggers wit wont’ worry you too much that Romney’s actual budget plans lack substance (understatement), you’ll only care what sells (what you cans sell). If you are policy bloggers … wtf?
Doug wrote: “So, it’s only natural that the Democrats would seek to tie Romney to Bush era policies . . . ”
Romney has tied himself to Bush era policies by offering the same policies Bush had: massive tax cuts for rich people, less regulation on businesses and a stubborn belief that these policies will reduce the deficit and increase jobs.
“Say what you will about Ryan’s budget proposals, but they are a sharp break from what was being done during the Bush Administration . . . ”
No, it’s more of the same. Tax cuts, less regulation and, like Bush with Social Security, an attempt to substantially weaken the safety net of Medicare for the elderly.
In fairness to Romney, the entire GOP is intellectually bankrupt so we should not expect new ideas from them. That is the reason why social issues are so very important to the GOP.
In my mind, the question Romney didn’t answer is this: “Why are you better?”
If he answered that one, people wouldn’t care about a return to Bush policies.
Only fiscal matters? There was, you know, that ill-advised thing in Iraq. Everyone is, with some justification, I admit, focusing on Romney plans for the economy (or lack of plans, whatever). But his foreign policy stuff is what is giving me the willies. It’s (what Andrew Sullivan calls) Cheneyism. We could call it Bush on Steroids. I don’t think Gov. Romney was just sellling woof tickets vis-a-vis Russia, China, and Iran in his speech.
Andrew has some harsh words for Gov. Romney:
All our worries about the economy will seem trivial if a President Romney miscalculates. As I am sure he would.
Fiscally, they’re not a departure from the Bush Administration at all.
Romney proposes a 27% reduction in the federal income tax (bring the top bracket rate down from 34% to 25%) a cut in the Corporate Tax rate, increases in defense spending, all while running large deficits for at least a decade. That is very similar to Bush’s actions to cut tax rates twice while waging 2 wars and passing an unfunded Supplemental Medicare Prescription Drug plan.
Actually, the entire Republican attack lines confuse me.
Attack: You didn’t close Gitmo.
Question to Rs: So you want to close Gitmo?
Attack: You didn’t save my plant in Janesville.
So you want government to intervene in business decisions?
Attack: You want to cut Medicare.
So you want to not cut Medicare?
In a incumbent contest a large majority of non-partisans vote against the incumbent if they believe the incumbent hasn’t done his job on the economy. The challenger doesn’t have to do jack diddly squat. See Clinton, William J. See Carter, James E. See Reagan, Ronald W.
Actually I agree with you on this for the most part. Other than tax cuts at the same time he declared war on the middle east I think the blame goes to Greenspan and he’s almost admitted it. The economy we had was unsustainable and Bush just sped it up a bit. Doing away with the Glass–Steagall Act had as much to do with it as anything and Clinton is the one who signed that one.
Any politician that says he can bring back the good old days is either lying or delusional. When oil is near or over $100 bbl we can at best have anemic economic growth and the cheap stuff is all gone. Without economic growth there can be no credit which the old economy depended on.
Yep, that’s what challengers to FDR found too.
My guess is that in a Convention whose entire theme is based on a lie…truth is thing Romney and his cohorts forgot to say
Please…what a load of horseshit…see Kerry, John F….
So I’m reading that Romney’s schedule for after this Convention calls for a break. Time off.
McCain got a 10 or 11 point bounce out of the Convention.
Romney…so far it’s within the margin of error.
Why isn’t Romney putting his foot on the gas?
Has he seen the writing on the wall? Is Christie right to start his ’16 campaign?
” “Mitt, you have nothing new to offer. In fact, on social issues, foreign policy, taxes, spending, Medicare and everything else, you have nothing different to offer than taking us back to what George Bush proposed”
I look forward to that question coming up between Romney and Obama in the debates — not so much rehashing a Bush presidency, but how a Mitt Romney presidency would approach such issues.
The liberal world, though, keeps hanging on to the threads of Bush, regurgitating his image when running out of excuses as to why our economy is so lousy. However, even Bush’s stature has somewhat risen after experiencing the shadow of Obama’s ill-conceived policies for almost 4 years.
A big contrast, though, between a leader up to the job of turning things around and one who is not, is how someone takes up the challenge and doesn’t let go until they succeed. At the R convention numerous R governors talked about the fiscal difficulties they inherited when taking office. But, instead of complaining about this burden, and incessantly blaming their predecessors they went to work and accomplished something in their given states. Ohio, WI, NM, FL, NJ, TN all have seen progress, as well as Luis Fortuna of PR. They actually touted and wore their bragging rights proudly.
Even when Romney was gov. of MA the economics of the state showed improvement — 5.6 UE that came down to 4.6 in his last year; job growth was 50th in his first year, brought down to 28th, with an average (that the dems always use) of 47; #1 state in education; balancing budgets — positive accomplishments despite an 85% dem legislature who overrode many of his fiscal policies, and a 13% R registration in the state. When I see these overwhelming odds, and then listen to the chronic complaints of Obama and his constituencies about ‘obstructionism,’ it just seems lame. And, then I also reflect on Bush’s last two years in office with a House and Senate powered under the democrats — that kind of Reid/Pelosi ‘obstructionism’ is rarely discussed in these quarters.
So, I relish Romney laying his plans on the table, along with Obama’s….What exactly are Obama’s?
Finally, there was another speaker at the convention, a Jane Edmonds, who worked with Romney during his governorship in MA. She is an AA woman, describing herself as a ‘liberal democrat,’ who seemed surprised that Romney picked her to work in his administration. But, she went on to say that eventually 42% of his workforce were women, and that under him MA was ranked #1 in having women occupy high level positions. Sometime in the beginning of his term she remembers Romney putting up a bulletin board with 44 goals to accomplish, prompting her to ask herself, “Who is this guy, anyway!” Supposedly, he got through all those goals. In his Mike Wallace interview, Romney runs his household the same way, with a rotating wheel denoting chores grand kids and others are to do sharing family times together. He is a management wonk, for sure. BTW, the Romney’s don’t have the usual entourage of domestic help either, like so many upper middle class and beyond people have.
Really? Do Mitt and Ann fly around the country constantly cleaning their homes? Their New Hampshire vacation home is 6,700 sq ft. Do they do all the cleaning, scrub the toilets and so on? I wonder where you are getting your “facts” from.
Are you unclear what ‘unprecedented obstruction’ means?
Odd that of the two candidates, you fail to notice that Romney is the one not laying his plans on the table.
I hate to break the news to you, but as President of the United States, Obama also gets credit for those successes you listed, unless by some chance you were talking about a different country.
What new excuses will Obama have to offer?
@legion: YES. Ryan puts out the same old bull shit the repubs have been peddling for 30 years, tax cuts for the wealthy today and spending cuts “tomorrow”. As we all know, tomorrow never comes.
This is called courageous by a bunch of hacks who are hoping to get the next check issued by the Koch brothers. You know what courageous would be for a repub? To say we need to raise $1 of taxes and cut $1 in spending until the budget is balanced. But Ryan ran like the coward he is when that very option was placed before him when he was on the Bolwes-Simpson committee.
Romney has failed so far to present detailed plans for what he would do…it’s a little late in the day to expect him to pull something out of his hat now…
Could someone tell me in which alternate reality this has happened? I mean, I know that medicinal pot is available in California, but really…
Funny how Romney seems to not want to brag too much to his base about what he did in Massachusetts…hmm, now why is that?
Sorry, dear, but that won’t help him make any progress with female voters, not with what so many of his fellow Republicans are doing and saying…
Mitt isn’t really telling us how he’s going to fix the economy, but I think he has a plan, and I think we can guess the plan.
After a year or two of the Mitt Presidency, with the economy still sputtering along and a bunch of people complaining that he needs to fix it, Mitt can easily address the situation just by starting a nice little war somewhere. This will take everyone’s mind off the economy (just like you said: “all our worries about the economy will seem trivial”), and it’s also a stimulus. Problem solved. Mission accomplished.
Apparently you do not see that that helps Obama. Not that I’m surprised, mind you, that you don’t. I’m pretty sure the Obama campaign hopes the Republican governors keep on talking things up and the Romney campaign that they just they shut the hell up.
What a fool.
Agreed – as noted above by many, the bouquets of Fail are well distributed throughout the two major parties during the Clinton era.
That said, from 2000 onward, the GOP has continued to throw citronella on the financial fire.
So what are the best answers to Mitt’s $3.4 trillion tax cut and addition to the debt?
Did Jan just say that the number shouldn’t be “regurgitated” and instead we should take Mass state performance (with a liberal state legislature) as our model?
Did Bandit just ask for “excuses” for Obama’s better budget?
Barack Obama Debt Plan Reduces Deficit While All Other Republican Candidates Increase Deficit
(Who would have thought that Jan’s position would be Massachusetts for the rest of us!)
Good one. But of course Mitt himself said the same thing, before the statement was retroactively removed from his book (link):
So I take it that you support Romney’s Plan to reduce the top federal income tax bracket from 34% to 25%, increase defense spending, and still end up with annual deficits of the magnitude we have today for the next ten years?
This “Plan” is remarkably similar to the Bush years when we cut taxes twice while waging 2 wars and passed an unfunded Supplemental Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
Feel free to declare yourself to be in ideological Chapter 11.
Jan, frankly, you’re coming off as a complete idiot. Note that the Republican governors who have been successful are the ones who are practical and willing to trim their sails to make sure a workable system is produces. Governors that don’t, a.k.a. Scott, have seen their popularity go into free-fall.
For all his pounding his chest, Romney hasn’t come up with any plan aside from “cut taxes! Wage war on Iran! Trust me, it will all work out!”
If you were to hire a CEO for your company, you’d want a damn sight more concrete and detailed of a plan than unicorn farts and happy waving of the hands. Or is your attitude that since ol’ Mitt has flip-flopped on every single issue since Day One, it won’t make any difference what he puts out because he’s going to reneg on any promises anyway?
So the next question is: why do you you want to elect as leader of America someone who can’t be trusted to keep his word?
And it should be noted that Paul Ryan, allegedly a fiscal conservative, voted to support all that. Ryan voted to support GWB every single time GWB wrote a huge check that was unfunded. As Larison has pointed out:
Ryan is an immense fraud, just like Mitt.
The GOP has nothing to offer except failed Bush-era policies. This is what’s behind the curtain, and they’re using a combination of lies and evasions to pretend otherwise.
I am really not sure how what I said is much different than what Castellanos said: we are both saying Romney has to make an affirmative argument about what he will do as president as opposed to offering vague promises, noting he is a businessman, and reminding everyone he is not Obama.
Jan lies repeatedly (example). It makes perfect sense that people utterly lacking in integrity are attracted to a candidate just like them.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I think that plays into the Romney game. They’ve actually made (as I’ve been “regurgitating”) concrete statements they’d now like to de-emphasize.
If you skip Romney’s $3.4T tax cut, and say he’s made no policy recommendation, you do him a favor.
You bury the data we do have.
We also know that he’d increase defense spending at the same time:
Romney’s Defense-Budget Growth Tops Cold War Pace
@legion: I just had to show you something I whipped up after seeing that term used to describe the ticket. Was that you who said this before?
onion, that’s excellent.
I’m pretty sure Krugman came up with the idea.