Mitt and the Tea Party
After a town hall meeting in South Carolina, Mitt Romney said, "Many Tea Party folks, I believe, are going to find me to be the ideal candidate."
Romney's comments followed his endorsement by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who was endorsed last year as a gubernatorial candidate by Sarah Palin.
There is a lot to like about Mitt Romney. He has said in every debate that "I love my country." I don't recall hearing Barack Obama saying that, and if I did, I am not sure I would believe it.
Mitt has said too in every debate that we are an exceptional nation and will continue to be. Barack believes that we are no more exceptional than the next country.
Last Thursday the debate discussion turned to whether America is in decline. Referencing the president, Mitt said "under him, yes; under me, no." Well said. The contrast with Barack Obama could not be more pronounced.
Mitt Romney has a track record as an excellent manager and executive, his character is beyond question, and he loves and respects our country.
On our biggest entitlement spending issue, Mitt Romney has embraced the Paul Ryan premium support plan for Medicare, in a version very similar to the bipartisan breakthrough recently announced by Ryan and Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. On this issue, Mitt has boldly taken a stand that is ahead of the curve, which Newt Gingrich acknowledged in the last debate.
So there is a lot to like about Mitt, but there are issues he must address for Tea Party conservatives.
To begin with, it is time to let go of RomneyCare. It is time to admit that the mandate did not work as promised and that the plan drove up costs and cut employment. In the laboratories of the states, some experiments succeed, and some do not. As The Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich have done, it is time for Mitt to admit the mistake and move on.
Mitt has repeatedly and emphatically said he will repeal ObamaCare, but he needs to stop defending the indefensible, and cut RomneyCare loose.
On global warming Mitt has taken such a variety of stances that it is hard to tell what he believes. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds should not figure into a presidential platform, and so Mitt should send the climate hucksters off to line up with Obama.
Listed in Mitt's plans is "Amend Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview." Let us hear loud and clear, and unequivocally, from Mitt on the national stage that he will get the EPA out of the CO2 business.
And while he is on the subject, resolve out loud to rescind the incandescent light bulb ban completely and permanently. I think we can handle the responsibility of choosing our own light bulbs.
On financial issues, Mitt's background should make him the leader, but he is instead the meek follower. Mitt's competitors Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, not to mention Herman Cain, have embraced flat tax plans in their campaigns. Mitt to his credit proposes eliminating the death tax and reducing the corporate tax, but that's as far as it goes.
Mitt's only personal tax change is to eliminate the tax on dividends, interest, and capital gains for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes below $200,000. It is time for Mitt to drop the nod to Obama's class warfare and fully embrace pro-growth tax policies.
In last week's Fox News debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Mitt about an assault weapons ban he signed as Massachusetts governor. Mitt's answer, after some hesitation, was that he is "pro-gun." While not a Tea Party issue per se, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is under assault, and it is illustrative of the weakness Mitt sometimes shows on the issues.
Mitt should be informed and able to discuss Fast and Furious, the U.N. "Small Arms Treaty," and the president's "under-the-radar" moves against the Second Amendment. Mitt should explain what happens to the Second Amendment if Obama gets to appoint a few more Supreme Court justices.
Mitt needs to be more than an effective manager of the federal bureaucracy. He needs to preside over a downsizing that would return specific areas to the states, as other candidates have suggested. His plan instead calls for a 5% cut here and 10% there, with a "fundamental restructuring of government programs and services."
While the Romney plan spells out overall cost containment guidelines, they are generalizations and not specifics. Again as other candidates have done, Mitt needs to spell out how he would downsize or eliminate portions of the EPA, the Departments of Energy and of Education, the National Labor Relations Board, and other federal obstructions to prosperity.
And Mitt needs to hammer away with certitude at the unbridled corruption of the Obama administration, as reflected in Solyndra, the Fast and Furious fiasco, and the Justice Department dropping certain investigations.
All of the above constitutes a tall order for a Republican who has been campaigning for the past five or six years, but this election is a tall order for all conservatives, and Mitt needs to step up his game.
Most of all, Mitt needs to say it with conviction. As Thomas Lifson said of Jon Huntsman, the Republican candidate needs to be prepared to go to the mat with Obama on the issues.
Mitt Romney should heed Ronald Reagan's words:
A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency ...
... raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people ...
... It is time to reassert our principles and raise them to full view.
The founding vision and fate of this "last best hope of man on earth" are at stake in this election. And for the Democrats, one hundred years of progressivism is at stake, and they will campaign accordingly.
Whether we continue the downward slide of Obama's fundamental transformation, or we carry forward our heritage as the apogee of liberty, is all riding on the shoulders of the candidate we choose.
It behooves Mitt Romney to define his positions unambiguously, strengthen his resolve, and show the courage of his convictions. Only then can he hope that the Tea Party will ride with him -- not with apathy and reluctance, but with pride and passion.