Plans

So this morning there’s all kinds of speculation about Mitt Romney once again “rebooting” his campaign to respond to complaints about his lack of policy specificity. But there’s a fundamental misunderstand that often creates confusion about Romney’s “plans.” In the real world, he, his running-mate, and pretty much the entire GOP is committed to “plans” contained in the Ryan Budget. When the Romney campaign, however, talks about its “plan” it’s the “five-point-plan for jobs and growth,” which is wildly less specific and actually pretty misleading.

Here’s Mitchell Landsberg’s brief summary of the “five-point plan” for the LA Times:

* Achieve North American energy independence by increasing access to domestic fossil fuels, streamlining regulations and the permitting process, drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and approving the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada. “No. 1, we’re going to take advantage of our energy, and that’s going to create millions of jobs.”

* Improve education and job training, in part by increasing school choice and changing the way teachers are hired and evaluated. “We’ve got fix our schools…. It’s time for us to put the kids and the pts and the teachers first, and the teachers union behind.”

* Curtail unfair trade practices, especially those of China. “I will call China a currency manipulator and stop them in their tracks from killing American jobs.”

* Cut the federal deficit by reducing federal spending below 20% of GDP. “You’re not going to get entrepreneurs to go out and start an enterprise … unless they realize we’re not headed to Greece.”

* Champion small business by cutting taxes and regulations, and by overturning Obamacare. “We need small business to grow. … Small businesses have been crushed these past four years.”

The guts of the Ryan Budget is in items 4 and 5, obviously, but is described pretty generally. You don’t hear any talk about “entitlement reform” or about a health care system that will radically reduce access to public or private insurance or about devolving the entire social safety net to the states with radically reduced funding. And in terms of emphasis, Romney’s talking a lot more about the less significant parts of his “plan,” notably all the very noisy China-bashing.

So when conservatives (or for that matter, MSM critics) complain about Romney never offering any policy “specifics,” and he says he is too being specific, or is about to become specific, it’s this “five-point plan” he’s talking about. And while this formulation avoids the toxic political vulnerability of the Ryan Budget, it’s not going to make “the base”–which wants an in-your-face, controversial domestic policy debate–very happy.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.