Back in March, Mitt Romney confided to the Weekly Standard that he intended as president to eliminate a whole slew of government agencies, but he wasn’t yet prepared to say which ones. The press corps mostly shrugged.
Last night, Romney took this a step further: He suggested to a group of friendly donors that he has no intention of revealing which agencies he plans to eliminate for the duration of the campaign. An NBC reporter overheard Romney’s comments, and this quote jumps out:
“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Romney said. “Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later. But I’m not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we’ve got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states.”
Glad we’ve now achieved some, er, clarity on this point. Sure, Romney did go a bit further than he has in public, revealing that he’ll likely consolidate the Department of Education with another agency or dramatically downsize it. But Romney, who has promised to cut any government programs that don’t pass his China test — if they’re not worth borrowing money from China to finance, they’re not worth keeping — is simply not willing to say which ones.
There’s no mystery here: People routinely tell pollsters they favor cutting government spending in the abstract, but when talk turns to specifics, they suddenly realize they don’t hate goverment so much, after all. And so, Romney’s comments last night sounded like a pretty straightforward assertion to a friendly audience that he will deliberately remain vague throughout the election about which government agencies he’ll either consolidate or eliminate wholesale.
However ambiguous, the vow to massively cut government is necessary to plug the big whole in his vision: He continues to promise huge tax cuts for the rich, even as he also continues to promise that he'll solve our deficit problem. The money has to come from somewhere. But Romney won’t say where. You’d think news orgs might want to get on this one of these days.
* Ann Romney happy about “attack” on her motherhood: Another choice nugget from the Romney fundraiser overheard by NBC:
“It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it,” Mrs. Romney said.
There you have it: Ann Romney herself has admitted she viewed the “attack” on her motherhood from Hilary Rosen — which triggered a natioanl paroxysm of outrage on the right — as a political gift, and that she “loved” it.
* Unemployment and gas prices running high? Republican feels “good”: The quote of the day comes from the capaign manager of Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado, who’s facing a very tough challenge in a race that is a top priority for Democrats. The campaign manager, Michael Fortney, had this to say to the Colorado Observer:
Fortney expressed confidence in Tipton’s chances, although he stopped short of predicting victory outright this fall. “With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good,” Fortney said.
Usually it’s Dems who are accusing the GOP of rooting for national failure for political gain, but here you have one of the most expicit declarations yet from a Republican that the two are linked.
* A question about the Buffett Rule: The Senate will vote on the Buffett Rule this afternoon. Republicans are likely to vote in unison against the idea that millionaires who pay low tax rates on investments should pay the same tax rate as middle class taxpayers do — including Scott Brown and the Maine twins. As Steve Benen notes, “this is what passes for Republican `centrism’ in the 21st Century.”
Many commentators will dismiss the vote as a stunt, because the Buffett Rule wouldn’t solve our problems overnight. And that’s true; it wouldn’t. But I hope these commentators answer a simple question. How do they propose to get Republicans to drop their overall lockstep opposition to more revenues from the wealthy — which many observers think is an absolutely necessary first step towards fixing our fiscal woes — without forcing them to take politically difficult votes like this one?
* House GOP won’t let Romney pivot to the center: This is the dynamic to watch, now that Congress is reconvening today and now that Romney is the unofficial GOP nominee. House Republicans put Romney on notice:
House Republicans said Mr. Romney could go his own way on smaller issues that may help define him as separate from his Congressional Republican counterparts. But, they said, he must understand that they are driving the policy agenda for the party now. “We’re not a cheerleading squad,” said Representative Jeff Landry, an outspoken freshman from Louisiana. “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.”
It seems clear that Romney will need to achieve separation from unpopular Congressional Republicans. As I’ve been saying, though, the question is whether conservatives will let him do it: They will be watching closely for any signs of a pivot away from them, which may help explain why Romney continues to embrace Paul Ryan so tightly.
* The Incredible Shrinking Tea Party: Relatedly, A new Post poll finds waning interest in the Tea Party, and this is the key finding:
There’s also been a sharp increase among both independent and Republican women in the percentages saying that the more they hear about the tea party the less they like it. In 2010, a plurality of independent women said they liked the movement increasingly as they learned more; today, they say they like it less by 2 to 1
With independent and suburban women thought to be key to the election, the question is whether more Tea Party antics in the House will increase pressure on Romney to distance himself from Congressional Republicans who appear determined not to let him pivot.
* Obama has upper hand in electoral map battle: A sharp analysis from Chris Cillizza: There are only nine states that constitute true battlegrounds this year, and in 2008, Obama won all of them.
The key caveat: Likely losses in some of them ensures that Obama’s path will be considerably more narrow this time. But for now, Obama has a greater number of plausible routes to victory than Romney does.
* Obama broadens case for tax fairness: Over the weekend, Obama made the case that tax fairness is not just about basic morality, but that it’s essential for promoting economic growth.
As I noted here recently, it’s absolutely essential for Obama to broaden his argument by detailing that tax fairness is necessary to allow for government investment in growth and broadening prosperity. Otherwise the GOP may persuade voters that they face a false choice between combatting inequality and promoting opportunity and social mobility.
* And Tammy Baldwin wants marriage equality in Dem platform: Wisconsin Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin adds her voice to the chorus calling on Dems to include marriage equality in the Dem party platform at the convention this year, which could increase pressure on Obama to complete his evolution on the issue. Between this and her full-throated push for the Buffett Rule, Baldwin is a Democrat worth watching.