Mitt Romney, like all Republicans running for national office, has to balance a pro-growth message with a fiscal-sanity pledge. Supply-siders would argue that the two are interconnected and that growth is the best way of closing the gap between revenues and expenditures. But the public doesn’t necessarily buy that connection. Moreover, the public remains very, very concerned about the fiscal train wreck accelerated by the Obama spending spree and the accumulation of $6 trillion more in debt in just four years.
Voters across the country report experiencing an impact from the level of the federal debt. A majority (56%) say the level of federal debt has had a major impact on their family’s personal financial situation, while another 32% also say it has a minor impact. Just 9% of voters say the debt has had no impact at all on their personal financial situation.
A majority of seniors (61%), Hispanics (53%), Independents (58%), and middle class families (58%) say the debt has a major impact on their personal finances.
The data also show that voters are statistically split on who they trust the most to set and manage their family’s budget. Overall, 47% trust Mitt Romney the most, while 46% trust Barack Obama the most. However, the results show key voter groups prefer Mitt Romney to manage their family budget:
The poll also found that, while 28 percent of “soft” Democrats say they would trust Romney more to handle their family’s finances, just 6 percent of “soft” Republicans would trust Obama to do the same.
This suggests Romney will need to highlight the two halves of his economic vision: restraining government spending and helping to propel the private sector (through tax reform, enhanced trade, regulatory reform).
There is one more monthly jobs report yet to be released, on Nov. 2. Unless something extraordinary occurs, unemployment will still be unacceptably high for many Americans, but Obama will have a glimmer of progress to point to if the rate goes down. Romney should begin making the case now that excessive debt adds a drag on future growth and job creation and will (if not promptly addressed) send us over the fiscal cliff and impose unacceptable taxes on future generations (likely the current generation of middle-class taxpayers when it becomes apparent that taxing just the “rich” won’t be sufficient).
As the debt goes higher each day, Romney has a receptive audience to whom to make the case that, without a different president and set of policies, the storm clouds of debt will hang over the economy for years to come.