As senior adviser Ed Gillespie promised, Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are honing their economic message, trying to give voters a choice between more-of-the-same liberal statism and a pro-growth conservative economic agenda.
In two stops in Colorado on Wednesday, Ryan went after the president, even pulling out his favorite PowerPoint slides. The Denver Post reported:
In Fort Collins, Ryan brandished slides about the national debt and the growing deficit. The debt now is $16,000 per person. During the town hall, Ryan comfortably pivoted between foreign policy, welfare reform and economic policy.
He called the pending problems in the nation’s economy — Colorado’s unemployment rate, at 8.2 percent, legs the national number of 8.1 percent — “the most predictable economic crisis we’ve ever had.”
“I remember 2008 like it was yesterday,” he said. “Look at all the layoffs, look at all the unemployment ... What if at that time, your president knew it was coming ... but didn’t do the right thing because he was trying to get re-elected?”
The crowd booed.
One woman told Ryan that she had a job, but also collected welfare because she was taking home $316 every two weeks. She asked how he would fix the economy so she could get a better job. Ryan launched into a six-minute answer about the White House failure in attempts at welfare reform and breaking the cycle of poverty.
That is the sort of into-the-weeds explanation that the campaign has avoided until recently. It seems the campaign has finally accepted the notion that voters want more meat on the bones. Indeed, this was among the top reasons for selecting Ryan in the first place — his ability to articulate a conservative reform agenda.
Meanwhile, Romney was explaining in Ohio why it is critical to keep taxes low on small business:
Likewise, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Romney used an op-ed to explain his education and training policies: “In 2009, the federal government poured $18 billion into 47 employment and job-training programs that spanned nine federal agencies. Of those retraining programs, 44 overlapped with at least one other program, and the little we know about their effectiveness suggests their impacts were minimal. . . . And the way to fix the problem isn’t to spend more taxpayer money on existing, failing programs. Instead, we must rethink our approach to focus on results — that is, on actually putting Americans back to work.” He then lists some particulars, including private sector-state partnerships and re-employment spending accounts. He explains: “When paired with strict federal accountability measures, block-granting existing funds to states gives them more flexibility to develop the programs that work best locally, while still ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.”
This is the connect-the-dots sort of explanation that has been largely missing from the campaign. Romney and Ryan, contrary to the liberal punditocracy’s narrative, are convinced they have time to expound on their message in swing states, use the debates as a larger platform for explaining their policies and then carry the message over to their ads and free media appearances. They do have specific policy proposals, but they have been derelict in not highlighting them or conveying why they will work for average voters. They are betting that once voters understand the Romney-Ryan approach they’ll feel more confident that the country can do better than continuing down the road of anemic growth, high unemployment and huge debt. We’ll see how focused they can remain and whether the voters are now sufficiently tuned in to absorb their message.