By Ed Lasky
Mitt Romney has a chance to upstage Barack Obama at Monday's upcoming foreign policy debate and use the strongest hand he has against Obama. And it has nothing to do with Libya.
Polls after their second debate highlight a source of strength for Mitt Romney that has consistently attracted likely voters to his candidacy. While various reports gave Obama a small "win" in the second debate, which focused on domestic policy, reading beneath the headlines reveals an emerging trend: Romney scores stronger when it comes to people's views of who better can handle their most important concern: the economy.
A Wall Street editorial notes in the wake of the second debate:
Then again, maybe Romney won. Blogress Carla Marinucci notes that in that same CNN poll, Romney did better on who would better handle the economy (58% to 40%), handle health care (49% to 46%) and taxes (51% to 44%), as well as on who is a "stronger leader" (49% to 46%) and who "cares more about your life" (44% to 40%). Obama did better only on who is "more likable" (47% to 41%).
Similarly the CBS poll--which again was limited to debate watchers "who are undecided or who may still change their minds"--found that 65% said Romney would do a better job with the economy, vs. just 34% for Obama. With this group, however, Obama helped himself some: Before the debate, the margin was 71% to 27% in Romney's favor.
Clearly Romney (who knows how to solve problems and takes advantage of opportunities even if the ideas come from the other side of the aisle) is following the "it's the economy, stupid" theme that Jim Carville used to help elect Bill Clinton. Romney weaves tales of his success as a businessman, governor, and savior of the Olympics to shape his image as a problem-solver who knows how to stoke growth.
Each debate ostensibly has a theme. However, candidates have taken control of the stage and addressed the subject matter they want. This is what smart and skillful politicians do: craft answers that emphasize their strongest advantages.
So how can Mitt Romney employ this strategy in a debate that focuses in on foreign policy?
By doing what he has been doing for the past year: going large.
While Obama may expect questions regarding Benghazi, the Arab Spring that has turned into the Arab Winter, a Russian reset that has so clearly failed, Iran's drive for nuclear bombs, the Muslim Brotherhood on the march, and a revived al-Qaeda, he might not be prepared (and we know how Obama looks when he is not prepared -- cue the video from the first debate) if Romney throws a curve-ball and interjects Obama's poor handling of the economy into the debate.
Romney's approach might follow that of Ronald Reagan. Reagan saw a strong America as the key that would unlock the chains that oppressed hundreds of millions of people and weaken (and eventually topple) the Soviet Union. His strategy for managing the Cold War was simple yet brilliant: "We win. They lose."
Romney can declare that "America is only as strong abroad as we are at home."
That bold declaration can be followed with the litany of Obama economic failures that Romney routinely trots out to challenge the veracity of Obama's rhetoric and show just how trivial Obama's small-bore ad hominem attacks have been. A poor American economy weakens not just our image abroad, but also our influence with other nations.
Indeed, the only sane statement Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever uttered was when he recently taunted America with the question: how long can debt-laden America remain a world power?
Under Obama, executives from around the world are "profoundly pessimistic about the ability of companies operating in the U.S. to compete in the global economy and to pay high wages to U.S. workers." Economic freedom in America has fallen under the Obama years, and we now rank dead last in the top ten nations on the index that measures that standard.
America is handing power to our creditors (including the Chinese) to sway our policies through financial pressure. And Obama keeps adding trillions of dollars of debt that will enable and empower them even more.
This freedom creates the environment that allows a nation to prosper and grow strong.
Barack Obama has made us less free. His tools: legislation (ObamaCare is merely the best-known), executive orders, a ceaseless barrage of rules and regulations and interpretations of the same, higher taxes, czars, executive orders, anti-business rhetoric, uncertainty.
A strong economy certainly gives us greater ability to project power abroad. But it is not just the idea of a Fortress America that should animate Americans. After the last decade, Americans have understandably grown wary of war.
But wealth brings benefits in many other areas: the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organization, the use of foreign aid to promote foreign policy goals, the ability to tie nations to America through trade.
Obama has tried to coddle and protect his union allies by putting on the back burner various trade pacts with other nations, South Korea and Colombia among them. These trade pacts create allies who have a vested interest in a strong and prosperous America. They create customers for American businesses, consumers of the bounty our farmers produce.
Alliances are also created when foreigners invest in America -- and they will be far more likely to do so under a Romney administration than under four more years of an Obama unbound.
Romney touched upon another aspect of our national security that Obama would rather ignore or, if forced to, address by his favorite mode of discourse: prevarication and distortion. That would be energy.
America is blessed with immense energy reserves: coal, oil, gas. Our production from the fracking of gas and oil has surged, decreasing our reliance on our adversaries (the Middle East, Venezuela). No future president will ever again bow to a Saudi king.
Yet the Obama administration has tried to derail this progress, and Romney has been very astute in pointing this out. He should do so again and again while on the stump. America does not need Arab oil petrocrats. Indeed, more and more businesses (both American and foreign) are moving operations here -- and hiring Americans at high wages -- to take advantage of the abundant and cheap natural gas supplies unleashed by the industry Obama routinely castigated.
While "warring against carbon" (his efforts to impose cap and trade on America will be resurrected in a second term), he has wasted tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on green schemes that all too often enrich his donor base while impoverishing our nation. The industrial carcasses now litter the landscape.
These billions of dollars have often flowed to foreign nations and enriched them (Obama's own outsourcing), since many of the purveyors of solar panels, wind turbines, and the like are owned by foreigners: China, Spain, Holland -- those windmills aren't just for tourists. China also controls much of the world's supply of rare-earth minerals that are crucial for green energy devices. And China has shown no compunction in using its cartel-like control to advance its foreign policy agenda and imperialistic drive.
How does relying on adversaries help our national security?
A strong economy will lead to a strong dollar, and a strong dollar is good for America. Our power on the world stage is immeasurably enhanced by the American dollar being the world's reserve currency: the dollar drives the world to some extent. But so did Spanish pieces of eight, and so did the English pound. The dollar has been weakening under Obama. China and other nations have expressed concerns that their dollar holdings are at risk of being "dumped" if America does not get its fiscal house in order (and soon). Speculation has spread that the world's new "reserve currency" can be some synthetic concoction that consists of a basket of currencies. The dollar will no longer reign supreme.
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