Mitt Romney took the stage at CPAC this afternoon following a rousing (surprise) introduction from Sen. Scott Brown, speaking as an economic guru and steering clear of social issues.
In an early preview of a likely presidential run in 2012, Romney attacked President Obama’s policies for prolonging the recession, raising unemployment and exploding the national debt. And in a deeper sense, he argued, the liberal vision has stifled the kind of pioneering spirit that built this country.
As a solution to our problems, Romney called for cutting taxes, strengthening the dollar, reducing deficits, and having more intelligent regulatory policies.
Romney’s emphasis stood in stark contrast to his speeches to the conference during his first presidential run, when he portrayed himself as a crusader on social issues in an attempt to outflank Rudy Giuliani and John McCain from the right. Given that his record in Massachusetts didn’t jive with his latent social conservatism, the strategy ensured that he would come across as an inauthentic flip-flopper.
Romney is clearly more comfortable in the role as the competent manager with business expertise who understands the economy. That’s an image that was pounded home by those who introduced him.
Jay Sekulow, of American Center for Law and Justice and a Romney supporter during his first run, said, “Our economy needs a Mr. Fix it today.” And Sen. Brown echoed the sentiment, insisting that, “If you want to fix the economy, you have to listen to Gov. Romney.”
In a thin field, Romney is probably the closest thing there is to a favorite to take the Republican nomination, but health care is one issue where he could run into problems.
During his speech, Romney called for a consumer-based approach to health care rather than one run by government bureaucrats. But the plan he signed in Massachusetts, which served as a model for Obamacare, did the exact opposite. It mandated that individuals purchase insurance or pay a tax, and empowered government bureaucrats to design insurance policies to be sold on a new government-run exchange. While Romney will try — as he did today — to hide behind the idea that individual states should chart their own health care policies, the reality is that his health care plan expanded Medicaid, which imposed costs on the federal government that are being borne by taxpayers in all states.
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