Mitt Romney loves America.
That’s the message the presumed GOP nominee has decided on as one of his core campaign themes. It’s the first line on his direct mail fundraising letters and appears on his website. Late last month, Romney delivered his general election pitch. His vision of America, he said, was “driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans.”
Romney was dinged at the time for his ambiguity. But his campaign has relied on that same style of vagueness in its latest campaign ad.
“Just what would a Romney presidency be like?” the ad asks.
Romney would be no procrastinator. Indeed, most of Romney’s actions as president would happen on the first day, presumably in the small window after his inauguration and before he attends the inaugural balls.
“Day One,” the announcer begins, “President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked,” referring to the oil pipeline from central Canada to the Gulf of Mexico that the Obama administration halted this year for further review.
The next item on Romney’s list?
“President Romney introduces tax cuts and reforms that reward job creators, not punish them.”
Finally, addressing the top conservative concern about their nominee—that he’s not conservative enough—Romney goes for his party’s holy grail.
“President Romney issues order to begin replacing Obamacare with common-sense health care reform.”
And with that, we have a portrait of the first day of Romney’s presidency, or more accurately, 1/1460th of his potential term. To save money on airtime, the campaign-ad writers could have boiled it down to this: get more energy, give people tax cuts and money, and replace an unpopular law with, well, something else.
On the conservative checklist, Romney hits all the necessary talking points, which is certain to bring in more fundraising money. So far this year, Romney has kept apace of Obama and the Democrats, bringing in just over $40 million in April (compared to Obama and the Democratic National Committee’s $43.6 million).
But Romney completely glosses over some pretty substantial obstacles he’d find while checking off items on his first day. The biggest: a president can’t change people’s taxes, create economic incentives, or repeal laws without lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Despite bright-eyed ambition, he simply couldn’t do any of it alone.
What’s more, every claim lacks details or supporting evidence. Greenlighting the Keystone Pipeline would indeed create about 5,000 to 6,000 jobs, according to a State Department study last year. But many of them would disappear in the months after the initial construction phase. Not exactly the kind of jobs a new president wants to exalt as the solution of the future.
Offering tax cuts and rewards to job creators is a goal of every politician, President Obama included. But the debate in Washington hasn’t been over whether to do it but how to pay for tax cuts and market incentives to stop offshoring and spur new hiring with an exploding annual deficit and national debt.
Earlier this week, Politico reported on tension within the Republican House caucus over Romney’s last claim: what to do about Obamacare? It’s possible the whole law could be overturned by the Supreme Court next month and make the entire discussion moot. But in place of the law, Republicans have been unable to agree on what to do instead. “Common-sense health-care reform” sounds nice. But as anyone on Capitol Hill would tell you, new laws require concrete ideas.
With this ad, Romney fails the specificity test, unwilling to offer ideas on how to accomplish his top goals, which, with a divided Congress, partisan logjams, and limited executive authority, is by far the harder part.
And besides, after the inauguration, the celebratory lunch, the parade, and getting settled into your new house, you really only have a few minutes before the cameras want to see you back out dancing with your wife.