Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney aimed squarely at the Republican center as he launched his economic program Tuesday, proposing spending cuts and lower taxes and picking well-known party figures as advisers.
The former Massachusetts governor, due to unveil a 59-point job creation plan in Nevada, named two top aides to former President George W. Bush to his four-member economic team: Glenn Hubbard, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003, and his successor, Gregory Mankiw.
Romney plans to promote employment by cutting corporate taxes, reducing federal regulations and getting tough against China on trade in his speech, in an announcement two days before Democratic President Barack Obama makes a major address on the economy and jobs.
Romney's plan reflects Republican Party orthodoxy, with an emphasis on cutting taxes and eliminating regulations. Romney also would push for free trade agreements and promote domestic energy production, including nuclear energy, oil, gas and coal, and seek a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
"High taxes and regulations -- that's basically a mantra for the Republican Party," said David Madland, director of the American Worker Project at the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund.
"This is the heart of the Republican Party," Madland said.
Despite addressing a Tea Party rally on the weekend, Romney is distancing himself from candidates who lean further toward the right, including his top rivals Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
"He's trying to go for the conservative center," said Julian Zelizer, a politics expert at Princeton University.
Republican primary voters will focus on two things -- one is whether they like a candidate's views, but the second is whether he or she can be elected, Zelizer noted.
Romney stands a better chance than Perry or Bachmann of beating Obama, polls show.
"They are not candidates who are going to be the most solid in terms of 'winnability,"' Zelizer said. "That second question (can he beat Obama?) is going to loom large because the anger toward Obama is so intense."
Romney said in a column in the USA Today newspaper that he would introduce 10 of his jobs proposals on his first day in office.
"Each proposal is rooted in the conservative premise that government itself cannot create jobs," Romney wrote. "At best, government can provide a framework in which economic growth can occur."
Romney was the early leader in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Obama's bid for re-election next year, but has fallen behind Perry in recent polls. Seeking to regain that lost ground, Romney has stressed his record in private business as co-founder of private equity firm Bain Capital.
Obama's job approval ratings have plunged as the country has grappled with a sputtering economy and unemployment stuck at just over 9 percent.
Polls released Tuesday showed Americans are unhappy with Obama's handling of the economy and jobs. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama's overall job approval rating at a low of 44 percent. An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed six in 10 Americans rated Obama's performance on the economy and jobs negatively.
Hubbard was a major force behind Bush's early economic policies, including his 2003 tax cuts. Mankiw, who headed Bush's CEA from 2003 to 2005, is an economics professor at Harvard University. Both also advised Romney's 2008 presidential campaign.
The two advisers bring some controversy. Hubbard signed a pledge in April put together by a business-led nonpartisan policy organization that said efforts to tame the bloated federal debt would likely have to include new taxes.
Mankiw created controversy for Bush in 2004, when he said that outsourcing jobs was "probably a plus" for the U.S. economy. (Additional reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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