Romney, Perry: Who Scares People Less?

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 19 2011 1:17 PM

Romney, Perry: Who Scares People Less?

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Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 12: Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney (L) and Gov. Rick Perry during the presidential debate sponsored by CNN and The Tea Party Express at the Florida State fairgrounds on September 12, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. The debate featured the eight candidates ten days before the Florida straw poll. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I like the way Jonathan Martin and Dan Hirschorn frame the choice given to Republican primary voters:

Choice A: The Hippocratic oath strategy — first do no harm. Under this approach, the party would nominate the safe-but-not-sexy Mitt Romney to keep the election focused as much as possible on Obama and to have a better chance to appeal to swing voters and independents.
Choice B: Go big. Given the nation’s economic troubles and the vast majority who believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, pastels just won’t cut it. Bold, bursting differences between Obama and the GOP standard-bearer are a must. By this scenario, Perry, the tough-talking, job-creating machine, would be Ronald Reagan to Obama’s Jimmy Carter.
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My colleague Annie Lowrey points out that there is a policy side to this -- more of a policy dispute than you had in, say, the Obama-Clinton primary. And it's worth thinking about as Washington drives into denial mode over the revelations in Ron Suskind's book about the Obama economic team. Romney's economic advisers are pretty mainstream center-right types: Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw. He's close to Meg Whitman, who could be the first-ever female Treasury secretary in a Romney administration. All three of these people have mused about the importance of dealing with climate change, and none are particularly Laffer-ian in their views.

Who are Perry's economic advisers? He doesn't have anyone holding that title in his campaign yet. In 2010, he won Art Laffer's endorsement for re-nomination, which isn't a surprise, but it's interesting that he sold it so hard. The most famous economic mind that's close to Perry is former Sen. Phil Gramm. He was bounced as a 2008 McCain adviser after saying America had become a "nation of whiners," but that was a speedbump: He's an incredibly influential Republican thinker on tax cuts and de-regulation. On the perennial question of whether more people should pay taxes, and the rich should not pay so much more than the poor, he once worried that highly progressive taxation was making America unstable. Gramm will be 70 on inauguration day 2013; it's very easy to imagine him being Perry's Treasury secretary, or head of his Council of Economic Advisers.