Romney Should Stay on Message – Room for Debate –

Carry On, Governor

Ramesh Ponnuru


Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review and a columnist forBloomberg View.



Mitt Romney is doubtless getting a lot of advice right now — some of it contradictory, much of it bad. According to one school of thought, he needs to concentrate on unifying the Republican Party by winning over the evangelical and very conservative voters who doubt him. Another holds that he should count on antipathy to President Obama to unify the party for him, and move to the center.

Any sudden shifts would reinforce the view that Romney is untrustworthy. He should stick to his message, which will woo the right and the center.

If he accepts the standard terms of debate, Romney will be left choosing which group of voters to ignore and thus run the risk of alienating either centrists or conservatives. He should instead reject those terms. While he should adjust his emphases to account for the fact that he is now trying to appeal to a larger electorate than he faced in the primaries, he should not change his positions. His message to conservatives should remain what it has been: that as president he will appoint justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, simplify the tax code, prevent entitlements from making the country insolvent, and sign legislation repealing “Obamacare.” His convention speech and his vice presidential pick should be consistent with that platform. Opposition to Obama will motivate conservatives to vote only if Romney keeps drawing a contrast to him.

Voters in the center of the electorate will find much of this very same message appealing: They too dislike the health care overhaul, worry about federal spending, favor tax reform and prefer conservative to liberal judges. But while some primary voters may think of these policies as items on an ideological checklist, for the general election Romney needs to present them more in terms of the results he hopes they will achieve: higher incomes, cheaper health care, confidence in the nation’s future.

Any sudden shifts in persona or policies will backfire on Romney, reinforcing the view that he is untrustworthy at the very moment that general-election voters are starting to take a look at him. So put down that Etch A Sketch, Governor.

 Romney Should Stay on Message – Room for Debate –

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