It’s the Economy, Stupid: Unsolicited Campaign Advice for Mitt Romney

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.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
This entry was posted in Business, China, Defense, Finance and Economics, International Security, Leadership, Policy, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to It’s the Economy, Stupid: Unsolicited Campaign Advice for Mitt Romney

  1. Moe says:

    Sean, I’d add that he needs to stop condescending by trying to be a ‘regular’ guy. He isn’t and It’ s not working for him. After all, we’ve elected many wealthy politicians and seem to be fine with it.

    I think Romney should just be comfortable with who he is, stop trying to disown his wealth, and it’ll play better. I actually think he’s a very good technocrat – and sometimes a technocrat is exactly right for a job (see Italy). Being wonky might play well for him.

    • Moe,

      You make some great points here. I agree. Mtt’s advantage lies in being a wonk. He is also pragmatic and therefore willing to change his stance on certain issues if a policy change will lead to a better overall outcome. Of course, the downside to this flexibility leads to things like the etch-a-sketch “scandal.” He shouldn’t try to be something he isn’t.

  2. dugmaze says:

    The republicans seem to be stuck on ideology rather than winning. The problem is one hundred years of history tells us ideology alone won’t win this next election.

    But, there is an untapped rabble on the left which the right is completely ignoring. Hardcore progressives, socialists, Marxists, and communists will only vote for Obama because of one thing, SCOTUS appointments. It’s rarely talked about in the media because we don’t have access to the media. We’re forced into low budget, dimly lit blog alleys hoping to find someone who isn’t brainwashed by the media to listen to us rant. We may be few but we also have a major influence over our friends.

    I can’t see me voting for a crony capitalist, but I would never rule out someone like Ron Paul. If the right could market Paul so the left believes his policies would never fly, then Paul could win. He has the sincerity people are craving after 30 years of bipartisan baby kissers.

  3. dedc79 says:

    Given how they jumped on one month of less-than-stellar job numbers the day they came out, i’m guessing they felt a little uncomfortable going after obama when 200k+ jobs were being added a month.
    I think you’re right though, in general. If he can’t make a persuasive case that he can do a better job on the economy than Obama, he doesn’t have a chance.

  4. lbwoodgate says:

    “Unlike the President, Mitt Romney has real world business experience, and understands the basic tenets of economics.”

    I really don’t think he has this edge as you suggests if all he has are the “basic tenets of economics.” There are a variety of economic views and the “science” of economics is a shaky one at that. I would say Obama is on equal footing with him here even though he hasn’t operated a business. What Obama has done that is similar to Romney is make some good investment choices. That is Romney’s “business experience”. Taking other people’s money and making successful gambles with it to make himself rich.

    Most of us see real business people as those who have gotten their hands dirty and started a business on a shoestring and made a great success out of it. They also have good people skills where they are respected at most every level of the employment strata. Romney is seen, rightfully so, as part of the wealthy sector of society who has never earned an income from real labor and it’s clear he cannot identify with people who have.

    • “Romney is seen, rightfully so, as part of the wealthy sector of society who has never earned an income from real labor and it’s clear he cannot identify with people who have.”

      I agree that this is Romney’s Achilles heel.

      That said, I disagree with the view that Romney and Obama are on equal footing when it comes to understanding how businesses work. Obama has never run one. Romney’s run several. Without understanding the difficulties that businesses face after having run one, it is difficult to imagine someone coming up with solutions to these problems.

      • lbwoodgate says:

        “Obama has never run one. Romney’s run several.”

        Romney’s “businesses” have been about venture capital investments. The principle behind this is not lost on many people like Obama who have practiced it to some small degree. Without the energies of other people creating businesses where products and services arise from labor, people like Romney would have no business.

        Running a country and a venture capital business are dramatically different Sean so if Romney overplays his “business” expertise I think he will be setting himself up being exposed as a snake oil salesman.

        But then politics is all about effective messaging so if Romney’s campaign can out-image the opposition’s image of his 1% status, then he may have a chance.

        • “Romney’s “businesses” have been about venture capital investments. The principle behind this is not lost on many people like Obama who have practiced it to some small degree. Without the energies of other people creating businesses where products and services arise from labor, people like Romney would have no business.”

          True. Yet what Romney did as a venture capitalist provided him with infinitely more experience in understanding business principles than community organizing. There is a reason the business community feels alienated by President Obama – he simply doesn’t understand how they operate or what their concerns are.

          “Running a country and a venture capital business are dramatically different Sean so if Romney overplays his “business” expertise I think he will be setting himself up being exposed as a snake oil salesman.”

          True, but it’s a lot like running a state, which Mitt Romney also has experience in spades. Also remember, President Obama had less executive experience than a lieutenant in the United States Army before he became President (and some would argue that it shows), so the bar is pretty low.

          “But then politics is all about effective messaging so if Romney’s campaign can out-image the opposition’s image of his 1% status, then he may have a chance.”

          I agree that this will be employ its primary tactic of class envy, which is one of the primary reasons I’m not a liberal. Moreover, I agree that this form of attack is likely to be the most effective one. The only way for Romney to blunt it is to attack Obama on his economic record, which is shaky at best.

  5. I think one opportunity for Romney to be more human, if not a regular guy is when he talks about being a pastor in his church. He did that recently, and I thought he sounded more genuine and empathetic than I could remember.

    • The problem with doing this is that he scares a huge part of his base, the religious right. It’s silly, I know, but my guess is that concern is what is holding him back. Although, Hilary Rosen’s absurd comments today do give him an interesting open to show a more human side.

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