Romney would eliminate some people’s capital-gains taxes. But Gingrich would eliminate everybody’s.
In dozens of campaign promises, the two GOP front-runners have provided a kind of aspirational self-portrait. These are the ideas that got them in the race and that would guide them in the day-to-day work of governing.
Romney’s big ideas, while sometimes at odds with those of past GOP nominees, are largely within tinkering distance of the status quo. They mirror the man who came up with them: wonky and technical, but generally tailored for real-world application.
Gingrich’s proposals go much further, requiring massive overhauls of the tax code, Social Security and the judicial branch — all at the same time. They are something like the candidate: epic, crowd-pleasing and ultimately a long shot.
Last week, Gingrich told a Florida audience that he would establish a lunar colony by the end of his second term in office. Some scientists say that might be possible; it would require mining ice at the moon’s poles and using it to make drinking water, oxygen and hydrogen-based rocket fuel.
“You could have a sustainable moon colony with a dozen folks who were there and doing scientific research, engineering, planning, building roads,” said Jack O. Burns, a professor at the University of Colorado.
Could this colony’s population reach 13,000? Gingrich gave that number as the threshold for the moon to petition for statehood.
“Sorry, did you say 13,000? Wow,” Burns said, laughing. “No. Certainly, that’s not going to be true by 2020.”
By now, Romney and Gingrich have piled up dozens of promises. They are still coming: With Florida’s Republican primary happening Tuesday, Gingrich has vowed to overthrow the communist government in Cuba and ban embryonic stem-cell research.
In some areas, the two men actually agree.
Both want to repeal two key laws passed under President Obama: the health-care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Both want to repeal the estate tax (the “death tax,” they call it) and get tougher with Iran. And both would amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
All of these are GOP orthodoxy: For a mainstream candidate, they are choices as obvious as getting out of the rain.
But in the differences between Romney and Gingrich, it is possible to see the gulf between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the Republican Party — and between two very unlike minds.
It starts with taxes, a subject dear to both men.
“With Romney’s plan, it’s much more a plan that works within the confines of the existing tax systems,” said Curtis Dubay, a tax specialist at the Heritage Foundation. “Gingrich’s, to work, would have to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch.”