In 1992, President Clinton defeated incumbent President George Bush, Sr. using a campaign slogan cleverly devised by his campaign strategist, James Carville. At a time when the president had decisive foreign policy victories ranging from the end of the Cold War to the Persian Gulf War, Bush seemed impossible to beat. However, then-candidate Clinton was able to refocus the campaign on the 1991 recession with four simple words:
It’s the economy, stupid.
Candidate Clinton eventually became President Clinton, and the rest is history. Similarly, candidate Romney should pivot to jobs every chance he gets. He should, at all costs, avoid addressing social issues, particularly in light of the left’s masterful recasting of the GOP’s legitimate First Amendment concerns about the healthcare law into the absurd and hyperbolic “war on woman.” Any time anyone on the right talks about gay marriage, racial relations in America, abortion, contraception, or anything remotely related to the private sphere, he or she plays into the left’s hands.
Romney should also avoid discussing foreign policy issues if at all possible. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, Romney is out of his depth on issues relating to national security. Obama does not understand defense issues very well either, but he is surrounded officials who do, namely this author’s thesis adviser. For instance, Mitt Romney publicly stated that Russia is “without question, [America’s] No. 1 geopolitical foe.” While this statement was certainly accurate in 1986, it is far from accurate today. Someone more schooled in international security policy might have answered Iran, North Korea, and possibly even China long before they would have even considered Russia.
After all, Russia is undergoing a dramatic demographic decline. According to The Economist, “Russia has only 168 cities with a population over 100,000 and their number is dropping.” Moreover, its population of 142 million is shrinking by 700,000 people a year. Russian males have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. In summary, Russia’s biggest foe is likely itself. Why Mitt would consider this country America’s number one enemy simply defies logic.
Which brings me back to my primary point. Whether Obama deserves blame for the current 8.2% unemployment rate is not the point. Winning is, and facts are stubborn things. The fact is that since President Obama took office in January 2009, only one month out of 39 has seen the unemployment rate below 8.0%. The left will continue to blame President George W. Bush for the current anemic job growth, as well as the old saw of “Republican obstructionism.” Obstruct the Republicans did, but only after the President lost two years of Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. A particularly nasty budget fight in August of 2011 simply doesn’t make for a reasonable excuse.
Unlike the President, Mitt Romney has real world business experience, and understands the basic tenets of economics. He should leverage that expertise as a compelling alternative to a President who continues to decry the right’s budget proposal that aims to set “GDP-percentage spending levels within 50-year norms” as Darwinian. Meanwhile, President Obama presides over an economy that has had an unemployment rate hovering at over 8% for over three years. Blame or no blame, the economy is President Obama’s Achilles heel, and Mitt Romney would do well to attack the president’s economic record with relish.