Romney's Greatest Asset

Ahead of President Obama’s visit to Ohio tomorrow, Mitt Romney is out with a new editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where he lays out his economic case against the president, and presents himself as uniquely well-suited to strengthening the recovery:

Mr. President, forgive me for being blunt, but when it comes to economic affairs, you’re out of your depth. Unlike you, I am not a career politician. Unlike you, I’ve spent more than two decades working in the private sector, starting new businesses and turning around failing ones. Undoing the damage you’ve done will be a daunting challenge. But I’ve learned a thing or two about how government policies can kill private investment and stifle job creation and I have a plan to get government out of the way. […]

I have spent much of my life in business, turning around troubled enterprises. I can do the same for the most troubled of all enterprises: our federal government.

As Greg Sargent points out, this is actually dangerous for Obama. If Romney can pass a threshold of basic competence, voters will be open to supporting his “solutions,” even if they’re nothing of the sort. The task for Obama is twofold; first, he needs to tout his own accomplishments. It’s important to highlight the scale of the disaster at the beginning of his term, and the degree to which we are on a path to recovery. The campaign is already doing this with web videos and rhetoric from the president, and you should expect it to continue.

The second, arguably more important thing, is to knock Romney off his pedestal of competence. Already, with its use of Osama bin Laden, the Obama campaign has wounded Romney with regards to foreign policy. The task is more difficult with regards to domestic policy, and requires a full Democratic effort to tie Romney with the broader Republican Party, and President Bush in particular.

It helps that Romney is actually proposing a beefed up version of George W. Bush’s economic policy, with fewer regulations and new tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. He admits as much in the op-ed:

Our taxes are too high, and our government is too big. I will cut individual tax rates by 20 percent across the board to jump-start job creation, grow the economy and help Americans keep more of their hard-earned dollars. I will reform a corporate tax system that drives American jobs overseas. I will slash the needless regulations that crimp our energy supply and inhibit so many different kinds of businesses.

In order to present Romney as uniquely unqualified to help the economy, the Obama campaign needs to draw a direct line from those policies to the Great Recession.