Between now and the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney needs to do 10 things in order to position himself for the final sprint to November.
1. Develop a health-care plan to replace Obamacare. Whatever the Supreme Court does, Romney should be the one with a constitutional, free-market-based health-care plan. Then he can put the spotlight on President Obama: Is he going to use the post-election “flexibility” to implement a single-payer plan?
2. Make this about competence. In lieu of offering policy initiatives (even a passable budget), Obama has become starkly and extremely negative. He has in effect thrown up his hands and declared that he can’t get along with the Republicans. If Obamacare goes out the window, the impression of a president uniquely ill-equipped to function within our constitutional system will be reinforced. How does such a character work with Congress and accomplish what is required to address our big challenges? He can’t.
3. Pick a vice president who will amplify his message: experienced, serious, problem-solving and rhetorically measured. (And really, when does Obama get dinged for picking one of the most foolish vp’s in recent memory?)
4. Focus like a laser on energy policy. Obama’s failure to develop domestic natural gas and oil reserves is as large a policy lapse as any. His opposition to the XL Pipeline is not something he can easily justify except to extreme environmentalists.
5. Don’t pander to women. The “war on women” hooey cooked up by the Democrats is embarrassing and insulting (to women and to real combat). It’s another gambit to divide the electorate and suggest Republicans are haters. Romney isn’t going to and shouldn’t match him in the “what can I give them” game, nor should he spend too much time on irrelevant issue like who gets into golf clubs. Instead he should emphasize how his policies help all Americans. (And does gender- specific abortion constitute a war on women? Just asking.)
6. Emphasize that his entitlement reforms are the key to preserving these programs for the long haul. In Romney’s plan wealthier seniors — not the poor or the modest-income elderly — will have to pay more. Romney is not eradicating the safety net, but he does follow Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in resisting the expansion of the federal government and the crowding-out of the private sector, which remains the engine of prosperity.
7. Make upward mobility a Republican strong suit. School choice, lower taxes for small business, rationalization and consolidation of work training and unemployment programs are designed to help people temporarily down on their luck and also lift up those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Continue to make the case, as he has begun to do so that restoring growth and free-market capitalism is the best means of combating poverty. As Arthur Brooks wrote, “Advocates of free enterprise believe that creativity, enterprise, and ingenuity are essential parts of human nature. Capitalism aims to take advantage of the self-interest of human nature, knowing that the collateral effects will be a more decent and benevolent society. Capitalists believe that liberty is an inherent good and should form the cornerstone not only of our political institutions but our economic ones as well. Free-market advocates also insist that wealth and prosperity can mitigate envy and resentment, which have acidic effects on human relations. Markets, precisely because they generate wealth, also end up distributing wealth.”
8. If Obamacare survives in whole or in part, make certain every American knows what IPAB (Independent Payment Advisory Board) stands for. It is arguably the worst part of Obamacare, a 15-person body given free rein to deny service, cap reimbursement and thereby act as the uber-rationing board for Americans’ health care. Once Americans understand what it is, they may wonder how in the world Democrats supported such a thing.
9. Make the case against hollowing out our armed services. We invite weakness, incite conflict and in the long run wind up spending more if we fail to prepare for conflicts. It is unreasonable to cut forces, putting more strain on existing service members.
10. More in sadness than in anger. Let Obama do the ranting. Let the media embarrass themselves by shilling for the president. By staying above the fray and chiding the president and the often distorted press coverage, Romney defuses the notion that he’s the radical and projects what we have been sorely missing, a presidential temperament devoid of bitterness and hostility.