The Romney Result

Article excerpt

Though he lost, he left a legacy of a cocky, radical Republican party

2Another gag, popular in the conservative blogosphere, begins, "They told me that, if I voted for Romney ..." and then adds the horror of the week. For example: "They told me that, if I voted for Romney, Detroit would go bankrupt. And they were right!"

All this is nearly as much fun as obstructing President Barack Obama in the House of Representatives.

What if Mitt Romney had won in 2012, though? America would now be nearly 200 days into his first term in the White House. It is worth pondering how different things might look.

Romney has passed into folk memory as a cautious, tin-eared rich guy, distrusted even by his own party as a "Massachusetts moderate." During the campaign, Democrats hammered him as an out-of-touch CEO, wedded to supply-side ideas that reeked of the 1980s. They jeered at his career at Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, painting him as a footloose global capitalist who would sack his grandmother to maximize profits. As a tactic it was crude, often unfair and rather successful.

However, interviews with former aides, along with recently disclosed internal documents, reveal the former Bay State governor to be more interesting, even radical. During his first 200 days in office, he planned a "continual stream of rapid changes" to the way that America taxes, spends, regulates business and cares for its sick and needy. Aides drew comparisons, as incoming administrations often do, to the frenetic activity of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's early months in office, during which he signed 15 major bills.

Michael Leavitt, the former Utah governor who chaired Romney's transition team, describes plans to deliver a "jolt of confidence" by showing seriousness in a few big areas. He would simplify America's spaghetti-spill of a tax code. He would grapple with the deficit, expand domestic energy production and reduce the role of government in health care by hollowing out Obamacare reforms. Success was to be measured by bosses releasing cash they were hoarding when Obama was president and rushing to join a Romney-led American revival.

Romney aides wince at the comparison, but their 200-day plans sound like a Bain turnaround for America's economy: a coordinated series of shocks aimed at impressing investors, but likely to startle and anger many ordinary folk. Democrats would have scorned it as a wish list for bosses and billionaires. Romney believed that his reforms would work, however, and work fast. Benefits would follow swiftly, in the form of private investment and job creation, persuading the wider public to trust in President Romney's competence, if not to love him. …