It was gratifying to see Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney finally refer to himself as the “business guy.” That label better stick if Republicans are going to be successful in moving a decidedly anti-business guy out of the White House.
Republicans must get their minds around the proposition that this election and the choice that it offers must be prosperity or not. Nothing else should matter now. The candidates who want the privilege of challenging Obama must establish their business bona fides or be gone. If they want to talk about marriage amendments or Michele’s agenda or climate policies or anything else besides the economy, primary voters should show them the door. This is a genuine emergency. Just as we concentrated on little else aside from national security after 9/11, we must recapture that same focus to deal with this seemingly unending economic crisis.
Republican candidates must firmly grasp the reality that it’s going to take a lot of money to overwhelm Obama’s reelection bid. So the business set that has the financial wherewithal to bankroll our challenge must be convinced that it will make a difference. I’m not talking just about simply playing to the business community’s desire for a less-regulatory administration, or holding the line against tax increases. No, I think the business class astutely understands that we are in a mess that demands a comprehensive solution. Business leaders won’t get enthusiastic about any candidate who offers less.
The president understands all this and is responding with “a plan.” Roll your eyes. It does seem like too little, too late. But it is a viable political strategy. I have run it before. In fact, my own research has shown that a “comprehensive plan” is far more appealing than just “a plan” like Obama is proffering. Every Republican needs a big, fat plan. Publish it. Print it. Carry it around. Hold it up. Read from it like it’s wisdom for the ages. So far, only one Republican has really come close to doing this, and even he seems timid about using it on the stump. If we as Republicans think that Obama has broken the economy, then we must provide a manual for fixing it.
Long term, there’s another reason to get focused on economic recovery. This recession looks to be long-term. So even if a Republican gets elected president, he or she will need to succeed and do so quickly to earn four more years. Consumers are panicky. If the next Republican to enter the White House cannot reinstate consumer confidence quickly, he or she will be as hopeless moving forward as our present president. Having a consumer-tested and -approved plan would go a long way toward jump-starting the sentiment needed to get the buyers buying again.
It’s going to take a lot more than empty and simplistically misleading claims, like those from Rick Perry, of having created jobs. That won’t wash today. Governors don’t create jobs. Businesses do. Businesses operate within an economy that is increasingly global and, even if a state’s policies have helped, there is a lot more complexity when it comes to the national and state economies. Some single-state principles can be carried forward to a national stage, but to be credible there must be a little more nuance than Perry’s raw political rhetoric.
Coolidge was right: “The business of the country is business.” Just do it better.
David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.