Mitt Romney announced he will deliver a speech at Ford Field in Detroit on Feb. 24, two day’s after the only February debate and four days before the Michigan and Arizona primaries.
It makes sense on multiple levels. It’s the sort of big event a frontrunner can mount. If his debate performance is weak, he has a chance to change the topic; if it is strong he can build on the momentum. It also signals to Rick Santorum, who reportedly will focus on Michigan, that this is home field advantage for Romney.
So what should he say? (Earlier today I made some suggestions to Rick Santorum, so it’s only fair I do the same for Romney.) By now almost every voter knows his resume. But he needs to answer two fundamental questions: What does he believe and what does he want to do?
As to the first, some biography is helpful if it is new and revealing. His Colorado speech gave us a peak: He believes in upward mobility, personal freedom and capitalism. He needs to explain why he does — because those things transformed his father’s life, his family’s future and the lives of all those people in companies he helped to start. And he, more than any candidate, understands why freedom of religion is vital and why an omnipresent state’s bureaucratic steamroller violates the central premises of our country. He might lift the veil a bit and explain how his faithful community and he specifically helped to mend lives.
Even more vital to his success is to succinctly set forth what he wants to do as president. He’s got tons of proposals but no theme. FDR had his four freedoms; Romney could use some analogous formulation. Maybe he can roll out “five promises” or “five challenges.”
First: We must restart that great engine of prosperity, poverty prevention and upward mobility: The free market. That means end crony capitalism and encourage real capitalism. Adopt the Rep. Paul Ryan tax reform plan. Repeal Dodd-Frank and Obamacare. Evaluate every domestic policy by one measure: does it promote growth and employment? That means going after Davis-Bacon, passing right-to-work legislation and rolling back all regulations to December 31, 2008. He should come with a list of projects including the Keystone XL pipeline that will be approved for domestic energy development.
Second: We must limit government to avoid fiscal collapse and ensure future prosperity. He has plans to reform Medicare, spending and Social Security. He can promise to deliver them to Congress in the first 60 days of his term. He should be open to alternative ideas but be firm that no budget will be passed and no government operation past the current fiscal year will continue until Congress passes meaningful debt reduction (he can pick a dollar amount).
Three: America will lead from the front. We need to restore defense cuts, reset “reset” with Russia, make clear that the U.S. — and not Israel — will be responsible for elimination of an Iranian nuclear weapons program by military means if need be, win the war in Afghanistan and make certain that thugs and free people alike know we stand for democracy and human rights (and that there are penalties to be paid for trampling on either).
Fourth: We will respect the rule of law and the Constitution, in specifics and in spirit. That means accommodating free expression of religion, cleaning house at the Justice Department, appointing judges who adhere to the text and meaning of law and ending the campaign of demonization against groups and voices with whom the administration disagrees (in the case of the Obama team that means everyone from Fox News to the Chamber of Commerce). In short, his administration should vow to respect the law, its political opponents and civil society.
Fifth: We need to make opportunity, not equality of results, our focus. That means supporting school choice, requiring job training for unemployment-benefit recipients, promoting English immersion and ending government subsidization of ever more expensive college tuition.
Or, Romney could just say he’s the only candidate from the private sector, he never worked in D.C. and he’s the only one who can beat Obama. Really, it’s up to him to figure out how to win and not merely to guarantee his opponents lose.