Conservatives have never quite been happy with Mitt Romney on policy. Right-leaning critics worry about his past positions, or they think he provides too few specifics about how he would lower taxes, cut spending, and reform entitlements.
According to Romney-campaign insiders, the clamor may soon be quieted. After Romney returns from his trip abroad, he will ramp up his economic argument prior to the Republican National Convention. At his campaign’s Boston headquarters, fresh talking points are being finalized.
Romney’s late-summer push will focus on middle-class families and how they are faring in the Obama economy. A major policy address may be in the works, sources say, but Romney is more likely to roll out his polished stump speech via a swing-state bus tour.
In background conversations, Romney aides frame August as an important month. The themes of the Tampa convention will be outlined in broad strokes, and Romney will be “more aggressive,” one adviser says, when explaining his positions.
But conservatives should not expect any startling developments. As former Missouri senator Jim Talent, a Romney adviser, said in mid July, there will be no “October surprise,” or a summer surprise, on policy. Romney’s positions have “already been outlined,” he said.
Instead, Romney will likely elaborate on previously unveiled economic policies, hoping to give them more prominence. Top Romney sources say political junkies may be familiar with Romney’s positions, but for many voters, a reintroduction would be helpful.
“He doesn’t need a whole lot of new,” says former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, a Romney adviser. “There is no magic bullet. What he needs to do is keep emphasizing the key changes in course and get those things right — on regulations, spending, and taxes.”
Romney aides expect the presumptive Republican nominee to do largely that — leading and concluding his rallies and speeches with economic arguments. In an economic-policy speech in St. Louis in June, Romney gave a hint of what’s to come next month.
“Instead of throwing more borrowed money at bad ideas, I will lower tax rates, simplify the tax code, and get the American economy running at full strength,” Romney said. “My vision believes in the ingenuity of the American people.”
Repealing Obamacare will also feature in the stump speech, but it won’t be the core element of Romney’s message. In terms of replacement, ideas include expanding coverage with pools and exchanges, buying insurance across state lines, and malpractice reform.
In front of certain audiences, Romney will tout Social Security reform, block-granting Medicaid, and premium support for Medicare. As he said at the Detroit Economic Club earlier this year, “When it comes to Social Security, we will slowly raise the retirement age. We will slow the growth in benefits for higher-income retirees.”