October 20, 2012

Romney’s “Unique Qualifications” for the Economy

  1:44 pm

The Romney campaign likes to refer to Mitt as “uniquely qualified” for the office of the presidency. While I enthusiastically agree, I’d like to extend the phrase to a particular subset of the role: economic policy.

A couple days ago, I argued that a political windfall would potentially lay at Romney’s disposal should he win November 6th. To recap, that windfall would depend on a couple significant developments: job growth would have to pick up, the deficit would have to decrease, and Mitt would have to persuade the American public that his leadership directly contributed.

This time around, I’d like to go through a few ways Mitt’s background and policy positions can make progress on the most pressing component of the equation, the economy, in descending order of bipartisan support needed and, thus, ease of implementation.

First and foremost, day one of a Romney administration (and perhaps even the day after his election) would present a crystal-clear signal – a green light, of sorts – to the business community. We’ve seen countless stories about how the investor class and business leaders have increasingly kept cash on the sidelines, because of the painful uncertainty regarding tax and regulatory policy and the distinctly hostile attitude Washington and the culture at large has taken toward wealth, business, and success in general since the financial crisis of 2008.

Having Romney in the White House would essentially tell the business community, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and this one appreciates you. This one values what you do, so please, do it. We won’t demonize you, we’ll celebrate your achievements and contributions.” While policies obviously matter, rhetoric does, too. Having a president who understands the business community and uses the bully pulpit to lead a change in attitude toward capitalism, free enterprise, and success in general will make a huge impact from day one.

Now, onto the issues that would require legislation, starting with the one that would have the most bipartisan support: corporate tax reform. Our left-of-center friends and even President Obama himself often note, correctly, that the President supports reform of the corporate tax code. However, this is a matter of priorities, and Obama clearly doesn’t place corporate tax reform high on his list. A President Romney, however, would. And this issue truly does have a great deal of bipartisan support, so much so that Romney could easily get legislation on his desk in the early days of his administration. Numerous authorities have studied the stimulative effects of cutting the marginal rate to 25% or less – essentially the OECD average, reducing or eliminating deductions, and instituting a territorial tax system. This is an easy one, and Mitt would get it done, quickly.

The next issue would necessitate more bipartisan support, but still less than those I’ll discuss later, since Republicans could go the reconciliation route: healthcare reform. Mitt has made it no secret that he would embark on an endeavor to repeal Obamacare as soon as he took office. Removing the tax increases and crushing regulatory burden Obamacare would impose would certainly help job growth, but to promote the maximum positive impact on upward mobility, Romney would need to follow up Obamacare repeal with reform of his own.

Simply enabling states to “craft their own solutions” represents a marked improvement over the status quo, but he could take it one step further by moving toward a system that detaches healthcare from employer-based coverage. Empowering individuals to take their insurance plans from one job to another and especially to self-employment would make MASSIVE progress on one of the most important issues of the day: income growth. After all, studies have shown that people usually obtain the greatest raises when they accept promotions at different companies, but many hesitate to take the leap due to benefit-based concerns. Healthcare reform like that described above, along with the aforementioned corporate tax reform and improved attitude toward the business community would represent some of the most powerful measures Washington has taken to promote income growth and upward mobility in years. We must not underestimate the magnitude of this proposition, not merely from a political standpoint, but also from a personal perspective, as it would make a real, noticeable impact on millions of everyday lives.

After tackling these issues, President Romney could then move onto those that would involve the greatest across-the-aisle cooperation and, thus, the most challenging paths forward: personal income tax reform and entitlement reform. As Gov. Romney so compellingly argued in his first debate with Pres. Obama, reforming the personal income tax code would have a stimulative effect on the greatest job creators in our economy: small businesses.

And entitlement reform, while having less of an immediate effect on the employment picture, would still help, as it would supply another positive signal to the financial community – that taxes will not skyrocket in the future to chase runaway entitlement spending, and that America’s political leaders can break the gridlock on key issues. However, this would obviously involve extraordinary negotiation, effort, and political capital. As a result, a Pres. Romney should focus on it after addressing the other topics cited above, since those reforms and the subsequent boosts to the economy would create a proverbial political wind at his back and maximize his ability to secure public support of his positions.

Of course, while Mitt’s background of executive experience and cooperation with Democratic legislatures act as key components of his “unique qualifications”, we mustn’t discount the helping hand his running mate would play, as well. The influence and contacts Paul Ryan has built over his 13 years in the House would prove instrumental in stewarding Pres. Romney’s agenda through Congress.

In the end, Mitt Romney’s experience and positions on the issues do, indeed, render him uniquely qualified to provide the leadership and reform necessary to confront the matters most salient to the American public: economic revitalization, income growth, and upward mobility.

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October 18, 2012

Great Challenges Bring Great Opportunity

  9:50 pm

Many within and outside the Republican Party have commented on the intimidating situation Mitt Romney would inherit (yes, I went ahead and used one of President Obama’s favorite words) if he won this election. The remarks usually fall along the following lines: “Romney will have to make so many tough and unpopular decisions to fix the economy and deficit that he won’t win a second term.”

While I certainly agree with the assessment of the situation facing the tenant of the Oval Office come January 20th, I’ll add a bit of a caveat to the forecasting of the 2016 election: because a President Romney would encounter such difficult circumstances, and because American voters understand this, a political windfall that would bear fruit for the Republican Party for years would potentially lie at his disposal.

After enduring almost four years of a near-collapse and painfully weak “recovery”, Americans have for the most part fully internalized the economic circumstances facing our elected officials. Therefore, they wouldn’t expect immediate results from a President Romney. In fact, many probably doubt he could even make a significant difference. The frequent references to a “new normal” by countless talking heads only compounds these beliefs. In effect, low expectations have become baked into the cake.

But, as we saw after the first general election debate, low expectations can become a tremendous advantage. If the economy started to produce strong job growth by the second or third year of a Romney administration, if the deficit finally began to shrink, and if Romney could persuasively argue that his actions contributed to these improvements, he’d enjoy a massive swell in public opinion, possibly to the extent that he’d cruise to a landslide re-election.

If this became reality, it could reverberate throughout the American political landscape for years. Bill Clinton showed just how effectively a president can re-brand his party with the right policies, messaging, and results, when he changed the public’s perception of Democrats from heirs to the Vietnam-protesting counterculture to champions of the middle class, siphoning off millions of votes from suburbanites and college students in the process. Under the right circumstances, Romney could re-brand the GOP as the “competence” party that gets things done on the big issues of the day (especially if he can spearhead and sign entitlement reform) and Democrats as ideologues out of touch with mathematical reality.

Obviously, A LOT would have to fall into place for all of this to happen, but the possibilities are very real.

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September 24, 2012

Romney Opens Up Big Lead Among Middle-Class Voters

  11:36 am

For those who haven’t seen it, Politico released an article that provided plenty of causes for optimism for Republicans.

Some key excerpts:

We took a special look at middle-class voters, and middle-class families in particular, in this latest POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll and found that [the belief that Romney has a weakness with middle-class support] not to be the case. In fact, on every measure it is Romney who is winning the battle for the support of middle-class families.

Overall, Obama leads Romney by just 3 points on the ballot (50 percent to 47 percent) – which before we rounded up, is actually a 2.6 point lead and only up a half-a-percentage point from the 2.1 point lead for Obama in our last Battleground poll in early August. In our latest POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll with middle-class families, which comprise about 54 percent of the total American electorate and usually split in their vote behavior between Republicans and Democrats, Romney holds a 14-point advantage (55 percent to 41 percent).

…All of this data make clear that Romney has won the strong support of middle-class families and is leading the president on an overwhelming majority of key measurements beyond just the ballot. In fact, when respondents were asked who, Obama or Romney, would best handle a variety of issues, Romney led on all but one including the economy (+9 percent), foreign policy (+3 percent), spending (+15 percent), taxes (+7 percent), Medicare (+2 percent), and jobs (+10 percent). Ironically, the one measurement Obama led Romney on was “standing up for the middle class” (+8 Obama), reinforcing that often the Democrats win the message war with the middle class, but not their hearts and souls.

…Even with the past few weeks containing some of the toughest days of earned media for the Romney campaign, and perhaps as a surprise to Washington insiders, Romney continues to win Republicans (Romney by a net +87 percent) by the same margin Obama is winning with Democrats (Obama by a net +88 percent), and is still winning with independents (+2 percent). Romney has majority support with voters over the age of 45 (+7 percent), with men (+6 percent), with white women (+9 percent), and with married voters (+14 percent). In addition, Romney has solidified his base. Support among conservative voters exceeds 70 percent (73 percent), his support among very conservative voters exceeds 80 percent (83 percent), and his support among Republicans exceeds 90 percent (91 percent). Romney is also receiving a higher level of support among Hispanics (40 percent), which is driven by higher support from Hispanic men.

…Fully 66 percent of voters select a pocketbook issue as their top concern. The Romney camp should feel good going into the three presidential debates knowing he has majority support (Romney 53 percent/Obama 44 percent) from these economically focused voters.

In fact, even with all of the misleading partisan attacks on the proposals from Ryan to reform Medicare, a majority of seniors (61 percent) select a pocketbook issue and not Medicare as their top issue of concern and nearly 6 in 10 seniors (58 percent) are voting for the Romney-Ryan ticket.

…A significant number of voters report that the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates will be extremely (11 percent) or very (12 percent) important to their vote decision…This means the debates are one of the best opportunities available for Romney to take votes from Obama. If Romney can continue to make a solid case about turning around the economy and the direction of the country in contrast to the president’s failed economic policies, these voters will be watching and many of them are currently Obama supporters.

My takeaways:

1. Kudos to Politico, a site that has a reputation for leftward bias, for posting an article so favorable to Romney.

2. If this poll largely mirrors Team Romney’s internal numbers, the campaign’s play-it-safe strategy makes more sense. In all likelihood, they have long identified the debates as Mitt’s greatest opportunity, with his skill in the format, to pull ahead and thus hope to keep the race as close as possible until the first showdown. They’ll probably follow the debates with an all-out push, utilizing the campaign’s war chest to peak at the correct time.

3. The snippet about Romney winning the “brain” but losing the “heart” side of the equation for middle class support calls for a precise strategic response: Paul Ryan. They should let the Congressman do what he does best on the campaign trail. Let him talk about budgetary issues. Let him showcase his famed ability to connect with these voters on a personal level. Let Ryan be Ryan.

***Update:*** 4. Mitt’s surge in support from Hispanic voters came as a very pleasant surprise; if he manages to draw that number in the general election, he will have performed better than John McCain (31% in 2008), widely considered a Republican well-positioned for Hispanic support, and even Ronald Reagan (37% in 1984). Among recent GOP candidates, only George W. Bush has done better with this demographic (44% in 2004).

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September 17, 2012

BREAKING: Romney Caught in Hot Mic Moment

  7:08 pm

Mother Jones has released a video showcasing audio of Mitt Romney at a recent fundraiser, at which he made some candid comments that do not play well in a general election:

Coming from a candidate infamous (some might say notorious) for his discipline and sense of caution, this will surely create a stir.

Now, of course, those on the right will largely agree with the substance of Mitt’s remarks. However, as previously stated, this will only further cement the “out-of-touch” perception surrounding Romney.

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August 12, 2012

Team Romney Rocks the Ryan Rollout

  1:34 pm

While watching Mitt Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his VP choice and the Congressman’s subsequent address, it became quite clear that they seek to move the perception of the ticket – and, consequently, the Republican Party – in a new direction.

Of course, our always-insightful Dave Gaultier already has expanded on this notion, so I won’t venture into his territory; rather, I’ll cite aspects of the speech that I considered particularly effective.

First and foremost, Mitt began his portion of the rollout with Ryan’s personal background, making it a point to discuss the challenging circumstances the Budget Committee Chairman’s family faced during his youth. Romney then proceeded to highlight Ryan’s character, integrity, and honesty and praise his bipartisan efforts, optimism, and leadership. Words cannot express the importance of this, as Team Romney must do everything it can to get out ahead of the Democrats’ Mediscare tactics by defining Ryan in a positive light.

The Governor also didn’t just talk about Ryan’s favorite issues – the debt and budgetary reform, he also branched out into the all-important topics of income growth and economic revitalization. This provides a strong signal that the Romney campaign intends to fold Ryan’s specialty into a broad, comprehensive vision they’ll offer as an alternative to President Obama’s.

Also in the realm of messaging and defining the ticket, Mitt brought up the fact that Obamacare cuts Medicare by $800 billion and pledged to “strengthen and preserve” Medicare and Social Security. While this may offend some of our ideological sensibilities, a campaign that figures to get hammered on long-term entitlement reform must frame the issue on their favored terms. The aforementioned verbiage takes care of that.

During his speaking time, Ryan took care to describe himself as a solutions-oriented problem-solver. This is music to the ears of Independents, including my fellow suburbanites (especially those of the non-ideological variety). This also suggests to voters that while Romney-Ryan’s proposals will undoubtedly have foundations in conservative philosophy, the ticket does not consist of ideologues.

Along these lines, Ryan threw down the gauntlet to address the big issues and problems facing America. As DaveG has noted, many campaigns have paid lip service to these lofty ambitions in the past, but none have pushed them as one of the key tenets of their platform.

The Congressman took Gov. Romney’s attempts to resurrect Americans’ collective spirit to another level, specifically challenging the notion, widely embraced within the Beltway, of the “New Normal” and arguing that current conditions have dampened our sense of optimism and confidence in the future.

He reminded us that the Democrats enjoyed supermajorities in both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama administration, helping to counter the false narrative of Obama’s reform attempts getting stymied at every turn. He contrasted the pettiness of the Obama campaign and other Democrats with a vow to take a positive message of growth and opportunity to “every corner of the country”. He defended risk-taking and entrepreneurship (“If you have a small business, you DID build that!”). He repeatedly talked about income growth. And he definitively proclaimed, “We CAN turn this thing around!”

All in all, Rep. Ryan, Gov. Romney, and the rest of the campaign team collectively hit a home run with the announcement. They kept the media (and observers like us!) guessing until the very end, they ignited the enthusiasm of the Republican base, and they boldly moved the party in a new direction, one geared toward leadership on the tough issues of the day, solutions, and reform.

Buckle up, my friends, and get your popcorn ready. We’re in for quite a show this Fall!

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August 3, 2012

Paul Ryan: Still the Best Option

  2:56 pm

These ideas began as a comment on my colleague Matthew Miller’s helpful reminder of Paul Ryan’s sheer brilliance when it comes to philosophical framing of the choice we face this November. I decided to turn it into a full-fledged post, to open up some debate on one of my favorite political topics, the Veepstakes, just ahead of Gov. Romney’s final decision.

Back in April, I advocated Congressman Ryan as Gov. Romney’s best choice for VP. Despite the scuttlebutt that Tim Pawlenty has pulled into a commanding lead on Mitt’s Veep depth chart, I maintain my preference of Ryan (and this comes from someone totally in the tank for T-Paw back during the primary campaign). I also take the view that Ryan would actually help more than Pawlenty among younger voters and moderates, by improving the ticket’s – and the Republican Party’s – brand.

First and foremost, Rep. Ryan would bring enormous intellectual heft to the ticket, as evidenced once again by the videos in the aforementioned Matthew Miller post. I don’t mean this to denigrate T-Paw as an intellectual lightweight, but few, if any, can better articulate the merits of capitalism, free enterprise, and limited government than our dear Budget Committee Chairman. This would go a long way toward changing the perception of the GOP (among young voters, moderates, suburbanites, and other growing demographics) from a rural-dominated group deficient in critical thinking to a liberty-focused, philosophically sophisticated bunch – closer to the positioning the party established during the Reagan years.

Many in Romney’s corner have voiced concern that tapping Ryan would shift the conversation away from the economy and onto his budget proposals. I may stand alone here, but I would welcome this shift if it changed the target of the Democrats’ attacks from Romney’s wealth – their current topic du jour – to entitlement reform. Class warfare is very powerful politically. It plays into voters’ insecurities and jealousies. People can do scary things when their emotions take over. And like it or not, Mitt already struggles with the “empathy” test. That, along with the electoral efficacy of class warfare, largely accounts for why Democrats have trained their fire on Mitt’s wealth so often in the campaign, and they show no signs of discontinuing. If he figures to get attacked for his success, anyway, why not at least strive to extract some benefit from it, by going all-in on long-term, structural budget reform with Rep. Ryan?

And that brings me to my next point: adding a counter-punch to the Romney campaign. Mitt has drawn criticism for relying too heavily on negativity, instead of following up his critiques of the President with proposals of his own. What better way to do that than to add arguably the biggest policy wonk among Republican elected officials in Washington, not to mention one of the most persuasive salesmen of conservative reform? Instead of simply arguing, in effect, “Obama’s policies stink,” Team Romney can go on the offensive with, “Obama’s policies stink, and we can do better. Here’s how.” We must not underestimate the significance of this; voters don’t always just want to vote against someone or something, they prefer to vote for something else, if given the chance. This especially holds true if the person they would have to vote against retains strong popularity on a personal level.

Last but not least, Ryan has spent 13 years in Washington. While that in itself carries some risk, it also means he has forged valuable relationships and connections on the Hill. Recent administrations have demonstrated the advantages of a vice president well-versed in the legislative process. As such, a Vice President Ryan could prove invaluable with spearheading a President Romney’s agenda through Congress. All the executive experience in the world doesn’t matter very much if the president can’t get any legislation passed. Ryan’s ability to help in this realm adds the figurative cherry on top for his case.

In the end, Paul Ryan may not have the greatest chances of getting the eventual nod from Gov. Romney, but when we take a step back and analyze the long-term implications of this campaign, he remains the best option.

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August 2, 2012

New Obama Ad Continues Class Warfare Theme

  9:34 am

The Obama campaign has released a new ad that has a familiar message: this Mitt Romney guy is, like, really rich, and he gets most of his income from capital gains, which get taxed lower than wages, so you should really dislike him, or something.

Here it is, in all its “glory”:

The analysis Rachel Weiner, of The Fix blog, offers contains some revealing information:

The ad will air in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.

So, THIS is the material Team Obama plans to use in swing states? Instead of arguing anything positive about the President’s first term or his plans for a second, they’ll just prey on people’s insecurities and animosities? I obviously come from a biased point of view, but that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence (or intimidation, from our perspective).

Is this how far we’ve come from Hope and Change?

Fine, Mr. President, you stick to the class warfare, and Gov. Romney can stick to ads like this:

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August 1, 2012

The Diversifying GOP

  9:02 pm

It’s not every day that the Republican Party gets some positive mainstream media coverage about minority inclusion, but we’ll take it when we can get it, especially from the Washington Post:

Ted Cruz’s come-from-behind victory in the Texas GOP Senate runoff on Tuesday — and the near-certainty that he will cruise to a general election win in November — ensures he will immediately join a rapidly growing group of rising national Republican stars that have one big thing in common: None of them are white.

…For a party that has struggled in recent years to escape the caricature that it is dominated by old, white men, the spate of minority faces rising to statewide office is a welcome development.

Since elected officials obviously serve as the most public faces of a party, this definitely represents a positive for the GOP. After all, in politics, perception is everything.

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Back from Hiatus…Fired Up and Ready to Go!

  4:40 pm

After some time where I consciously tried to detach myself from the campaign (to avoid news that might make me feel pessimistic) and instead help my wife start our new business she runs, I find myself drawn right back into the race. Why? Simply put, President Obama.

As many have noted, the President gives us a little window into his philosophical mind when he lets his guard down and speaks off-the-cuff. The statements that have come about when he has lapsed into his statist streams-of-consciousness, topped off, of course, by the now infamous “You didn’t build that” drivel, have transformed this coming election into something greater than many, myself included, expected as recently as a few months ago.

Earlier this year, I wrote:

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an election that pits two competing broad visions of America’s future – of a private sector-driven market economy vs. state-managed corporatism – against each other for the voters to evaluate?

As it turns out, my hopes did become reality. It just took a little while.

Now, the choice we face has become strikingly clear; on the one hand, we have a President who offers the most anti-business, anti-capitalist, and anti-success ideology and rhetoric than possibly any other in history and definitely in recent memory. On the other hand, we have a nominee who has experienced firsthand some of the greatest gifts free enterprise has to offer. Gov. Romney has achieved success beyond most of our wildest dreams with the help of the very things that make capitalism so powerful: entrepreneurship, innovation, and reward for risking one’s wealth (read: property) on successful business ventures.

This now widely viewed ad from Sen. Scott Brown beautifully articulates and depicts this night-and-day dichotomy:

Many right-of-center observers have commented that it doesn’t really matter who we elect this November – that policy wouldn’t meaningfully change with either candidate in office come January. Even if you accept this line of reasoning, which I don’t, I would argue that the stakes remain high enough to care about the campaign, because of one key facet of the presidency: the bully pulpit.

At the end of the day, even if a commander-in-chief encounters opposition from an uncooperative Congress or challenging external events, their voice carries more influence than any other single person in the world. Because of that, their words matter. It matters if a president demonizes success and casts business owners in a suspect or outright negative light. It matters if they doubt the efficacy of our capitalistic system. And it matters if they question America’s future place in the world.

In contrast, it would matter if a new president celebrated entrepreneurs, encouraged the innovation and creative destruction essential to a thriving economy, and articulated a firm belief that free enterprise offers the greatest potential of prosperity for all. It would matter if they inspired a generation of younger Americans to dream of new advancements in technology, better ways to serve customers, and more powerful means to expand the economic pie, instead of simply further dividing up the existing pie. And it would matter if they forthrightly declared that America will maintain and even expand upon its preeminent status in the world.

As our 40th President told us nearly 50 years ago, this is a time for choosing. And because of that, to borrow a rallying cry from President Obama’s own 2008 campaign, I’m back, fired up, and ready to go!

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May 9, 2012

The Battle for the Suburbs—The “Mature” Suburbs

  12:00 pm

It has been widely recognized and conceded that this year’s election is going to be decided in the suburbs of the Battleground States, and perhaps within the most swinging suburbs of the most swinging States.  Washington Post political columnist Chris Cillizza is out today with an analysis of the suburban “battle space.”  Most notable is his delineation and description of mature suburbs as opposed to the more outer suburbs and or exurbs.

But the “suburbs” is a very broad description that takes in areas that have very little in common aside from some basic geographic proximity to a major metropolitan area. Alexandria, Virginia and Purcelville, Virginia — for example — have very little in common other than they are both in the proximity of the D.C. metro area.

Thanks to the data and graphics gurus at the Washington Post — Ted Mellnik we are looking at you — we now can refine what exactly we mean when we talk about the the swing suburbs.

It’s the “mature suburbs”, areas that are 75 percent to 95 percent urban, where the battle between President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will really be waged. Need examples of mature suburbs? Loudoun County (Va.), Pima County (Ariz.), and Kane County (Ill.) all qualify.

In 2004, President George W. Bush bested Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in the mature suburbs, which cast a total of 21.4 million votes, by nine points. Four years later, President Obama beat Arizona Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in the mature suburbs 50 percent to 49 percent — winning two million votes more than Kerry in that key area.

Obama likely won win the mature suburbs in 2012 but he can’t afford to lose them by a double-digit large margin either.

The graphic below not only details the presidential candidates’ performance in the mature suburbs but also looks at how the 573 counties in the top 100 metro areas voted in 2004 and 2008.

(Fascinating factoid: Of the six counties on the map that went from Democratic in 2004 to Republican in 2008, three of them were in southwestern Pennsylvania.)

 

Read the full story here.

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