Will Romney Embrace Wisconsin’s Bold GOP Ideas?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
June 5 2012 11:02 PM

The GOP’s Land of Big Ideas

Wisconsin is the home of bold GOP thinking and Republican superstars. Will Romney ever call it home?

(Continued from Page 1)

Indeed, immediately after the Walker victory, Romney called the new GOP hero and issued a tough-talking (for him) statement: “Governor Walker has shown that citizens and taxpayers can fight back—and prevail—against the runaway government costs imposed by labor bosses. Tonight voters said ‘no’ to the tired, liberal ideas of yesterday, and ‘yes’ to fiscal responsibility and a new direction. I look forward to working with Governor Walker to help build a better, brighter future for all Americans.”

Romney has already embraced the other Wisconsin GOP hero, Paul Ryan, and Ryan approved of Romney’s Medicare reform proposal during the primaries. Romney campaigned with Ryan during his Wisconsin battle against Rick Santorum, and Tuesday Ryan held an event in North Carolina for Romney. This might have been a vice presidential try-out or it might just have been a way to use a party superstar to raise some dollars.

But if the moral of the Wisconsin Republican story is that politicians who run with gusto on conservative ideas can win the day, then Romney needs to pick it up a notch. His embrace of the specifics of Ryan's plan has been spotty at best. When one of his advisers was asked about it this past Sunday, he said that Romney supported Ryan but had his own plan. True enough, but Romney’s own plan is not nearly as robust and detailed as Ryan’s blueprint. It is the expectation among Republicans like Norquist and in Congress that Romney’s job as president will be to simply sign the Ryan budget. If that's true, and the Wisconsin lesson is that boldness pays off, then Romney should promise to sign it on his first day in office. 

Advertisement

That would be extraordinary, because the political risk calculation is more complicated than the hero storyline suggests. Walker’s race was brutal and required a massive resource advantage. Ryan’s budget plan, while not the liability Democrats initially predicted, is credited with helping Democrats win a Republican seat in New York’s 26th district. No matter how exhilarating the Wisconsin narrative may be, Romney also knows details kill. And it's clear that President Obama is ready to pounce. He and Vice President Biden have been trying for months to wrap Romney in the Ryan plan.

The sweet spot for Romney is to associate himself with the Ryan plan in general but never get pinned down on the specifics. In 2010, House Speaker John Boehner did not include the full Ryan plan in his pitch to voters called "Pledge to America,” because he knew that specificity would give Democrats something to attack. Ryan knows this, too. That's why Ryan talks about closing tax loopholes but doesn't pick which ones. (There are lists.) When Romney was overheard by reporters at a fundraiser mentioning a few of the puny tax loopholes he'd think about snipping, his campaign said he was merely repeating some ideas he’d heard.

Romney is still making his transition from primary to general election candidate. The boldest thing he has done so far as Obama’s opponent is visit an inner-city Philadelphia school. There he met with some resistance to his conservative ideas. Will he run on a bold set of ideas of the kind championed by the Wisconsin duo now that he is not trying to court GOP voters alone? It remains to be seen. If he does, he’ll know the best state in which to make his stand.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

U.S. Begins Airstrikes Against ISIS in Syria

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

How in the World Did Turkey Just Get 46 Hostages Back From ISIS?

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.