Mitt and the Vision Thing

Sunday, 08 Jan 2012 08:44 PM

By Christopher Ruddy

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"Where there is no vision, the people perish." — Proverbs 29:18

Mitt Romney often is touted as the most electable of the Republican presidential candidates. Electability is important for Republicans who want to oust President Barack Obama, but if the former Massachusetts governor really wants to win the GOP nomination and beat Obama, he needs to offer a vision.

Romney is a remarkable businessman and strong family man, and he is close to his church. He also is energetic, focused, and determined. A good man, he has all the qualities many would like to see in a president.

Yet, for many GOP voters, he can’t close the deal. Nationwide polls consistently show him garnering between 25 and 30 percent of Republican voters. Other GOP candidates have seen their poll numbers rise and fall, but Mitt Romney can’t seem to break out.

His critics say he has flip-flopped on a number of issues through the years. His policy changes don’t bother me so much. If someone never changes his  mind, that worries me. And, over the years, Romney’s thinking has moved to the right, not to the left.

Likewise, his adoption of near-universal health insurance coverage in Massachusetts when he was governor of that state does not trouble me. Romneycare was modeled on a plan first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Today Romney has made it clear he opposes a national individual mandate, believing healthcare reform should be left to the states. In fact, he has vowed to repeal Obamacare if elected president.

And I have no doubt that he is conservative on fiscal matters. As Massachusetts governor, he presided over a series of spending cuts, eliminating a projected $3 billion deficit without raising income taxes, and vetoed nearly 250 items in the state budget. He issued more vetoes than any governor in history. That makes me smile.

Though he offers conservative credentials — and even the look of a president — he still lacks this vision thing. Vision isn’t charisma. Newt Gingrich is not so much charismatic as he is a visionary. In fact, he’s a born visionary; his head is a virtual popcorn maker of ideas. This vision stuff — Gingrich talks incessantly about American exceptionalism — excites people.

When Gingrich visited Staten Island, N.Y., to accept the endorsement of its former congressman, Vito Fossella, he electrified the crowd of nearly 800 that turned out for the appearance, according to a local newspaper. This is in a New York City borough.

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain also is a visionary. His 9-9-9 tax plan is simple and original.

That’s how visionaries think. They paint pictures for people. They see the world in black and white, even if they know some things are gray. They keep it simple.

Take for example economic policy. Both Gingrich and Rick Perry have supported a flat tax that would greatly simplify the entire tax system. Bold, simple, and decisive. Romney, on the other hand, has produced a 59-point economic plan, a 160-page behemoth that does little to simplify taxes and was disparaged as “timid” by Gingrich. Romney, by his own admission, is a numbers guy, driven by data and less so by ideas.

At the end of the day, Republicans need a candidate with a big vision — one captures the imagination of the American people. President Obama has a vision of his own, one starkly different than most of ours. He envisions state power rather than private industry to move the economy and, in his view, to protect the disadvantaged. He also envisions an America apologetic for its existence — the sine qua non of his foreign policy.

No doubt Obama has a “big” vision: big government, big healthcare plans, big increases in taxes, big spending, and big, intrusive regulations.

Today, Republicans need a candidate with a bold counter vision that can inspire voters, move the nation forward — and oust the current “visionary” in the White House. It’s not too late for Mitt Romney to find his vision, step up to the plate, and hit a home run.





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