Let’s be frank: The differences on matters of policy between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney aren’t vast. But their style, personality and entire ethos certainly bear no resemblance to one another.
Perry (the Romney campaign points out) hasn’t come up with any specific economic plans. The Texas Tribune reports:
Gov. Rick Perry, still bedeviled by critics, may be looking to turn the conversation back to the economy, but he has yet to unveil a detailed plan on how to get America working again.
Perry’s policy plans, or lack thereof, were on display in the last Republican debate in Orlando, Fla., especially when Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked Perry exactly how he would create jobs
There is indifference verging on contempt for the notion that a campaign should be about an agenda. (“‘More detailed policy proposals are going to be made at the appropriate time,’ said campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier. ‘As far as the upcoming debate is concerned, the governor is looking forward to it. He’s going to be talking about his record in Texas, his successful record of creating jobs.’ ”) You know how well that’s worked so far. Romney has come out with a 59-point plan. It’s not that bold or daring, but it’s concrete and shows the ability to at least formulate conservative policy.
Meanwhile, Romney rolled out an all-star lineup of foreign policy advisers today. I had to laugh when I saw the name Aaron Friedberg as co-chair of Romney’s Asia-Pacific working group. In a Time magazine Perry mentioned what he was reading, including: “I’m reading another book by Aaron Friedberg [A Contest for Supremacy] that is a really fine read about China, their very long view of the world and our need to really pay attention to what’s going on in that part of the world.” Well, at least they can agree that Friedberg is at the top of his field.
So what does that mean? It certainly does NOT mean Romney is smart and Perry is dumb. But what it does show is that governing for Romney is about getting the best people to execute a specific agenda. For Perry, politics is about relationships, putting supporters in the right places and holding tight on the reins of power. If Perry has ideas (send Social Security to the states), they are intuitive — some would say extreme or even bizarre (repealing the 17th Amendment).
Romney has shined in the debates because he is organized, prepared and has policies he wants to talk about. Perry has tried to wing it and failed. There is more to being president that competence and executive skill. But after three years without those qualities, it would be nice to have plenty to spare from the 2012 nominee.
Romney’s proposition is that these are serious times and we’re past the point of fooling around, glad-handing and one-liners. So far that’s a winning message.