After months and months of campaigning, Mitt Romney is finally sounding like a conservative. It took the strong challenge by Rick Santorum in Romney’s home state of Michigan to produce this transformation. But it worked as Romney overcame a double-digit Santorum lead to win yesterday’s Michigan primary.
To fight off Santorum, Romney unveiled a supply-side tax plan to cut income tax rates 20 percent across the board. He also proposed reforming Medicare in a way similar to that of House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, the top Republican thinker on domestic policy.
And when Romney spoke at a rally after his Michigan victory, he downgraded the pitch that used to dominate his campaign appearances – his experience in business, with the 2002 winter Olympics, and as governor of Massachusetts. That was relegated to the tail end of his speech.
Instead he stressed a new slogan: “More jobs, less debt, smaller government.” He said, if elected, he will save the country from the “deficits, debt, and decline” that President Obama has imposed on the country. The federal government, he added, will be “simpler, smaller, smarter.”
And he ticked off a list of provisions in his tax reform scheme, including elimination of the estate, overseas corporate profits, and alternative minimum taxes. For a moment, Romney sounded almost wonkish.
The point here is that all this represents a change. Not that Romney didn’t believe these things, but he sure didn’t emphasize them. His strategy was to avoid staking out strong, specific conservative positions for fear that Obama would use them against him in the general election. Indeed, Obama is likely to do so.