If Mitt Romney can succeed in energizing conservatives behind his candidacy, he could conceivably lock up the nomination by Super Tuesday and put himself in a strong position to defeat Barack Obama come November.
That, however, is a big “if.”
Since Santorum’s sweep on Tuesday, a number of conservative commentators and bloggers have come to a consensus about Mitt; he needs to provide red meat for the conservative multitude. Some say he needs to adopt bolder proposals, others that he needs to retool his message. Basically, he would serve himself well to learn from Jon Huntsman. That former Utah governor (who, in dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination, endorsed Romney) put forward a bold economic plan, filled with conservative reforms. But, he didn’t make that plan the focus of his campaign.
Romney needs thus to adopt a bold plan — and make the plan part of his pitch — as John Podhoretz puts it, to be fervent not about his business experience, but about conservative ideas, to woo and win the conservative base by articulating their concerns. These voters want to “hear that their cause is just, their battles are noble, their leaders are tribunes and that righteousness as they see it will prevail.” Via Powerline.
James Pethokoukis offeres some tips on the bold plan Romney could articulate, stressing entitlement reform and specifying the federal programs he would cut. Most importantly, he need put forward a “tax reform plan worthy of the name“:
In his USA Today piece, Romney again said he would “pursue fundamental tax reform that makes our system simpler, flatter and fairer.” When are we going to get some details on this, first term or second term? Faster, please. Washington is full of tax reform plans. Just steal one and tweak it a bit. There’s the Bowles-Simpson plan which would get rid of all tax breaks and lower the top rate to 23 percent. Jon Huntsman stole it and then modified it by getting rid of investment taxes. That would be a great option for Romney, too. Call it the Entrepreneur First option and stress how it would boost growth, income, and jobs.
Finally, he should “shrink and expand” his “59-point ” economic plan. (Via The Weekly Standard.) Perhaps, get it down to 5-7 points and hit those hard.
Given Santorum’s social issue focus, with his economic ideas seemingly, as the editors of the Wall Street Journal put it, “a subset of his social agenda“, Romney has an opening to seize the tea party mantle if and only if he hits the tea party issues hard.
Jon Huntsman tried that with his economic plan, only to get his message muddled by his all-too-frequent swipes against conservatives. Mitt Romney, by contrast, already has center stage. Now that he’s there, he needs to command conservatives’ attention by convincing them of his commitment to our common cause–cutting government and increasing liberty.
If he does that tomorrow at his CPAC speech, he could well energize a dispirited conservative base.