Gingrich, Romney, and Cain are the leaders in the current primary race. Momentum is with Gingrich.
In match-ups with Obama, Gingrich loses by eight percent, Romney by one and Cain by nine. On the other hand, likely voters who strongly approve of Obama dropped from 45 percent to 25 percent in two years. He should lose, based on his record. Republicans could win the presidency and a veto-proof Congress if they present a focused message that is understandable and powerful.
No conservative likes the current tax system, but the appetite to change it was not a central issue in 2008. Nevertheless, the tax code had gotten most of the coverage during Republican debates. Cain started this with his 999 plan. Romney responded with a modified version of the current tax system and a vague promise that, at a future date, he too would offer a flat rate plan. Gingrich offered flat tax rates lower than current ones. Like Cain’s, his lower rates would be applied to a non-traditional, somewhat vague, tax base.
Cain and Romney have concentrated on tax systems because they have pounced on the notion that job creation is the principal issue in the campaign. It isn’t. Unemployment is important, but Obama’s leadership and his failed policies, especially Obamacare, are the primary issues.
Conservative voters must not allow some primary contenders to woo them away from their central 2008 concerns, which are even more valid today. They must remember what has driven their uprising – fear of losing their country because of an arrogant, amateurish leadership that is destroying America.
Getting lost in the weeds of tax policy is unproductive. It’s apparent that any Republican candidate will change tax policy. Enough said about that. But their positions on the basic tax and spend questions are not so clear. 1) Will they seek to eliminate Amendment XVI (the right to tax income)? 2) Will they seek a balanced budget amendment with spending and taxing caps? 3) Will they eventually seek a national sales tax?
Bad tax policy, past and present, did help to create the fiscal crisis that faces America. But it is not what energized conservatives in 2008. The triggering issues included: 1) Health care; 2) Entitlement spending; 3) Other spending; 4) Regulations; 5) Energy; 6) Defense; 7) Immigration.
Analysis will be limited to the positions taken by Cain, Gingrich and Romney as their responses to the above issues are presented on their websites.
Health care: All would repeal Obamacare. All would sponsor Health Savings Accounts; all would protect seniors and near-seniors. Cain makes a brief and vague statement about free-market solutions; Romney and Gingrich are ready to fix the system with specific cures. Romney will have trouble selling himself as an advocate for change because he installed Romneycare in Massachusetts, which is troubling.
Entitlement spending: All candidates would protect seniors or near seniors. Otherwise, Cain’s comments are brief and uninformative. Gingrich speaks of block grants, personal savings accounts and finding solutions “with the people.” Romney, like Cain, relies on general language, with a few more specifics. Each candidate shows an awareness of the sensitivity attached to Welfare State issues. There is no crusader here who speaks boldly. It will take a clever man, who knows the system, to wade through the political bushes of the Welfare State and emerge upright and victorious. The task could be over Cain’s head.
Other spending: Cain in effect, calls for zero-based budgeting, with few specifics. Gingrich has little to say on the subject. Romney would call for an across the board cut of discretionary spending; he would consolidate job training and other programs and, in general, he would improve management practices. One gets the impression that Cain has no clear ideas on what he would specifically do; Gingrich would leave such trivia (my word) to others, and Romney sees it as a management problem. Ron Paul is the only candidate who sees the problem properly. Government is bloated with unconstitutional duties. The management of departments and programs is not the central problem; their existence is. Get rid of some of them. These three candidates have yet to face up to that solution, as Ron Paul has. The underdog has a lesson to teach.
Regulations: Cain would repeal Dodd-Frank (Wall St. reform bill that hasn’t worked); he would review and rescind Obama regulations that hinder safe growth – few specifics. Gingrich has page after page of reforms that are ready to go as soon as he has the power; Romney’s contribution to this subject is modest. Gingrich emerges as the candidate who is best prepared to deal with this issue, which is a key to the development of a growing economy, especially in the energy sector.
Energy: Cain again says the right things with few specifics. There is little doubt that he would fully exploit U.S. resources, but he doesn’t persuade readers that he’s the man to do it. Gingrich has a six-point detailed plan of how he would fix the energy problem. Romney, like Cain, says the right things, but no details. Gingrich is a drill, drill, drill man; Romney seems more tentative.
Defense: Cain would maintain military strength and he would support America’s friends. He offers no details. Gingrich emphasizes the need for a global strategy to deal with Islamists. From writings, debates and speeches one learns that Gingrich would favor reshaping the military to meet modern challenges; Romney has page after page on what he would do to keep America strong. All would maintain military strength; Gingrich is more apt to correlate it to an informed foreign policy.
Immigration: The candidates would seal the border before they would deal with in-country illegal aliens. To different degrees, all disapprove of treating illegals as American citizens with American rights. Cain and Romney are clearly opposed to any form of amnesty; Gingrich’s position is more subtle, which is something he’ll have to explain as the campaign continues.
So far, things are going Romney’s way. He is building his campaign on the issue of jobs, and he flashes his resume as a job creator. Those who have offered their tax plan as the centerpiece of their campaigns have played into Romney’s hands. Tax plans are job plans, and job plans are Romney’s playing field.
The candidate with the broadest vision gains strength when the debate is enlarged to include the issues that motivated conservatives of 2008. That man is Gingrich, although Romney proves he is more than a one shot gunman – he runs close to Gingrich on both broad and narrow issues.
Both Romney and Gingrich carry baggage. With Romney, it’s professional; with Gingrich, it’s mostly personal. By some, Romney is viewed with suspicion; Gingrich, with distaste. Take your pick. According to currently available information, one of them is likely to be the Republican nominee.
Robert Kelly, author of several books on baseball, politics and the national debt is also a freelance, award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many Massachusetts newspapers. His latest book, Neck and Neck to the White House, is available at Amazon and the better bookstores. His e-mail address is [email protected]