Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Romney Opportunity

At the Wall Street Journal, "Running on biography and the economy won't be enough":

With Newt Gingrich finally leaving the GOP Presidential race, Mitt Romney is now closer to realizing the ambition he has so long pursued: He has an even-money chance to become America's 45th President. He's more likely to fulfill that ambition if he overcomes his cautious nature and runs a campaign that is equal to America's current political moment.

This will not be the instinct of Mr. Romney or his close-knit group of advisers. Looking at the polls, they see a nearly even race, with President Obama below 50% despite the beating Mr. Romney took in the primaries.

The temptation will be to assume the public has decided to fire the incumbent and so run a campaign to become the safe alternative. Take no policy risk, stress Mr. Romney's biography, his attractive family and the seven habits of highly effective businessmen, and then hammer away on the economy.

It's possible, if job creation sputters again or Europe goes into bond-market arrest, that this kind of campaign will be enough to win. It's also possible—more likely in our view—that this will play into Mr. Obama's strengths of personal likability and Oval Office experience, especially if the economy keeps chugging on its current slow-growth path. Mr. Romney will have to make a case not merely against Mr. Obama's failings but also for why he has the better plan to restore prosperity.

On the economy in particular, such a larger argument would fit the country's current mood. The public's anxiety isn't merely about the failures of the last three years, as important as it is for Mr. Romney to score this Administration for its failed stimulus, crony capitalism, hyperregulation, soaring debt and ObamaCare.

Americans are more deeply worried than at any time since the 1970s about their country's long-term prospects. Why aren't middle-class incomes rising? Why are nonmilitary public institutions failing—from K-12 education to entitlements?

Mr. Obama understands these anxieties, even if he has no new answer for them. So his diversionary re-election strategy will be a combination of class warfare, more government subsidies (free student loans!), and personal attacks on Mr. Romney for being wealthy. Mr. Romney will need allies who can rebut these attacks.

But he'll find it easier to defeat Mr. Obama's argument—even to transcend it—if he offers his own economic narrative that reaches back to the mistakes of the Bush Administration to explain how we got here and how he can get us out. Politically, this will help shield Mr. Romney from Mr. Obama's inevitable attempt to link the Republican to the Bush era. Such a critique also has the advantage of being true.
Continue reading.

Romney's got to hammer away on the Obama debt explosion, for one thing. Dennis Prager was making a similar argument on Hannity's, which I posted previously: "Mitt Romney Sweeps 5 Northeast States, Effectively Clinching GOP Nomination."