Romney has declined to reveal some crucial details about his tax plan. If he did, Romney’s campaign has said, it would be harder to get Congress to go along with them later. “We want to get it done,” said his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Obama is equally vague about his second-term plans. Obama sometimes sketches his agenda as a list of questions, which hestill needs to answer. “How [can] we continue to build an economy that works for middle-class families?” he said last week in Tampa, reeling off five questions for himself.
It is still possible to make a few educated guesses about how Romney or Obama might change everyday life in the next four years. But only a few. In recent polls, 49 percent of voters said they wanted more details from Obama, and 63 percent wanted the same from Romney.
In an interview broadcast Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” Romney faced questions from CBS’s Scott Pelley about his refusal to divulge more details of his tax plan.
“The devil’s in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs,” Romney said.
“You have heard the criticism, I’m sure, that your campaign can be vague about some things. And I wonder if this isn’t precisely one of those things?” Pelley said.
Romney said, in essence, that vagueness is necessary sometimes. “You don’t hand [lawmakers] a complete document and say, ‘Here, take this or leave it.’ Look, leadership is not a take-it-or-leave-it thing,” he said.
The vagueness at the heart of this campaign seems a reaction to its overall gloomy circumstances. The economy is lagging, the capital is gridlocked, and the country is grappling with a growing debt. All the proposed long-term solutions — cutting spending, increasing tax revenue — are likely to make a huge block of people mad.
The campaigns may have calculated that it’s better to let people wonder about their intentions rather than release details and confirm those worries.
“In a sense, they’re afraid to come up with solutions. Because any solutions will anger voters,” said Robert N. Roberts, a professor at James Madison University who has written an encyclopedia of presidential slogans and promises.
“The campaigns really have no choice,” Roberts said, but to say, “ ‘You may not like me, but the other guy is worse.’ ”
For anyone trying to forecast the impact of November’s election, the best place to start is health care. That’s because there’s already a law on the books — the 2010 health-care overhaul — that will bring noticeable changes in the next term.