No dates. No dollar signs. No numbers.
Mitt Romney’s two-page plan to overhaul Medicare is an exercise in vagueness.
And that could prove to be a most-effective campaign weapon this election season. Or it could be his undoing.
Specifics might be a thing to be avoided in a campaign. Elections often hinge more on emotions than on facts. They’re often more about how people figure a politician will improve their lives and not so much about the figures proposed by politicians.
And the addition of Paul Ryan to Romney’s presidential ticket hasn’t changed that at all.
A bars-and-charts-wielding Wisconsin congressman, Ryan has a reputation as a specifics guy. But now he’s the No. 2 on a ticket where the attention to detail doesn’t extend to details.
“The nature of running a presidential campaign is that you’re communicating direction to the American people,” an anonymous Romney adviser told the Politico website. “Campaigns that are about specifics, particularly in today’s environment, get tripped up.”
Case in point: President Barack Obama.
Obama promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. The deficit grew instead. Obama said his stimulus plan would keep unemployment below 8 percent. That hasn’t happened yet. He said he’d pass the pro-immigrant DREAM Act in his first term. That didn’t happen, either.
And, in February 2008, Obama campaign surrogate Kathleen Sebelius specifically pointed to Romney’s healthcare reform when he was governor of Massachusetts and said Obama believed “the individual mandate doesn’t work.”
By 2010, the mandate requiring people buy health insurance was the linchpin of Obamacare when it passed. And, ironically, Romney attacks the very plan that was based on his plan.
What happened? Reality.
Obama had to deal with a worse-than-expected economy and Congress. By the time a campaign proposal goes through the meat-grinder of Congress, it usually looks nothing like the filet mignon promised on the campaign trail.
Still, he promised specifics. And now he’s paying a price.
“We will not blame other people. We will take responsibility,” Ryan said Saturday during a trip to The Villages retirement community. “We are not going to duck the tough issues. We’re not going to kick the can down the road. We will lead.”
So far, though, Ryan and Romney have done just that.
When confronted last week with the fact that he advocated for stimulus spending that he trashed as a type of “sugar-high” socialism, Ryan denied it. Then he admitted he did advocate bringing bacon home after all.
Both Romney and Ryan have proposed budget plans that would steeply cut taxes and spending. But Romney wants to reverse Obamacare’s $700 billion in reductions to future Medicare spending and he wants more military spending. So he has advocated removing tax incentives to balance the budget.
But neither he nor Ryan will say which ones.
“That is something that we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress,” Ryan told Fox News’ Brit Hume.
Translation: We’ll tell you after we get elected in November.
The Obama campaign hopes to use the repeated specifics-avoidance by Romney — coupled with his refusal to turn over multiple years of his tax returns — to cast doubt on his trustworthiness.