Republicans gather in Tampa this week to officially kick off Mitt Romney’s bid for president. Barring a tropical storm surge, the show will go on. Though conventions are meant to be pageantry amid political platforms, this will be an opportune time for the GOP to make its case to independent voters in Florida, a must-win swing state, why Gov. Romney should lead the nation.
The economy remains Americans’ top concern. Home foreclosures caused by the banking crisis have not abated, and people are understandably angry that not one executive has been punished for the high-risk derivatives gamble that led to economic meltdown.
Finding jobs for the unemployed, particularly in minority communities, remains a diminishing return. The middle class, whose numbers have dropped precipitously in the past decade into poverty, sees astronomical tax breaks for the rich while the salaries of workers have plunged.
And there, ticking away at America’s potential, is the Debt Clock, which the Romney campaign will feature at the Republican National Convention. A crushing debt built up over a decade that imperils the health of two key social programs for the elderly — Medicare and Social Security. Trillions of dollars in debt created in large part by two underfunded wars in the Middle East, tax breaks for multimillion dollar global conglomerates that have taken jobs abroad and an unfunded prescription drug plan for seniors.
Republicans’ vision for a strong and prosperous America has long been based on the inspiring belief in the power of the enterprising individual, on energy and ideas that can, as Ronald Reagan would say, “lift all boats.” In South Florida, where small businesses are the backbone of the local economy and where energetic international tourism has created jobs despite the global crisis, those Republican ideals still inspire many voters.
The GOP’s challenge is to persuade independents that its policies are meant to help every American, and not solely the monied special interests demanding more tax breaks and less regulation even if that risks our health and safety.
Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has offered “tough love” with draconian cuts to vital social programs and no true sacrifice from the richest Americans as his solution to restore a balanced budget. Let’s remember that President Bill Clinton, working with a Republican-led Congress, left the nation a budget surplus a dozen years ago.Yet Mr. Ryan’s GOP-led House has been unwilling to budge and return to the nominal, Clinton-era tax rate on the top 2 percent of earners, which would balance the social-program cuts it wants. Doing both would produce budget reduction by means of shared sacrifice
Such obstinacy has put in peril this nation’s own credit rating at a time when the global economic crisis demands pragmatic solutions not partisan entrenchment.
Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both popular conservatives willing to cross party lines without compromising their principles when Floridians’ best interests demanded it in Tallahassee, will be spotlighted in Tampa. Perhaps they can start their party on the path of rebuilding Reagan’s visionary and compassionate “Big Tent,” now tattered by the tea party faction.
The tea party’s intransigence on immigration reform remains a huge liability for the GOP at a crucial time, when Hispanic voters are a growing force in pivotal states like Florida. Mssrs. Bush and Rubio understand that dynamic all too well and what it means for their party’s future.