Romney’s Debate To-Do List
He needs to explain not only what’s wrong, but what he will do to fix it.

Decorating the debate stage in Denver


When Barack Obama was elected president, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. By the time his term of office ends in January, it will be $16.6 trillion. That’s a larger increase in four years than we had in the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency. To put things in a longer perspective, it took America nearly 200 years to reach $1 trillion in debt, which it did around 1980. If the debt keeps increasing at the current rate, the interest alone will be $1 trillion a year by the end of this decade, and our government will be unable to make those payments. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have put spending on steroids over the last four years. With another four years, they could do what no one else has ever done: destroy our economy and our country, and do it from within.

Zinger moment: “Mr. President, you yourself said that if you did not turn the economy around in your first three years in office, your presidency would be a ‘one-term proposition.’ If you were unable to keep your promise to for economic recovery then, why should the American people believe you now?”

4. Focus with specificity on the president’s mishandling of the Middle East.

While foreign policy doesn’t poll that well and will not be the focus of the first debate, the errors of the Obama administration in our dealings abroad must be on display in Colorado tonight to demonstrate the larger point: The president lacks the competency to deal with the myriad problems facing America. President Obama’s naïveté and his appeasement-driven foreign policy have endangered American lives and interests around the globe.

The most recent example is the blatant terrorist-led assassination of our ambassador in Libya on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

Mitt Romney must speak of the leadership required of the U.S. in responding to crises such as the ongoing mass murder in Syria, the growth of terror cells in Yemen, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Iran’s ongoing challenge to the United States and Israel in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The U.S. has never furthered its interests by kowtowing to foreign adversaries. The world is safer when America is strong, and Governor Romney must encapsulate President Obama’s foreign-policy disasters and explain how he would lead the U.S. and the world to a better place.

Focusing on foreign policy and the Middle East will also allow Romney to highlight the incompetency of the president’s energy policy. The Obama administration’s misguided investments in alternative energy have brought us such failures as the $535 million Solyndra debacle and General Motors’ Chevy Volt, which, according to media reports, costs $89,000 to produce, but retails for $39,000. The president’s inexplicable stubbornness in refusing to approve energy projects like the Keystone Pipeline is more grist for the mill. Since President Obama took office, the price of gasoline has gone from $1.89 a gallon to above $3.93 a gallon this September. Energy independence would not only make energy more available and more affordable for the American people, but it would also choke off billions in funds to those who stand against us.

Zinger moment: “Your ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, misled the American people when she said the attack in Libya that killed our ambassador was not a terrorist attack. What steps have you taken, Mr. President, to ensure that another member of your administration won’t mislead the American people?”

5. Renew Americans’ vision for prosperity under a Romney presidency.

With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, Ronald Reagan convinced us that Americans were special, and that our best days still lay ahead. This is the story Governor Romney must tell: If only we can replace this president and his cronies in Congress, America can get back on track to being once again what it was, and even much more. As the children of a nation born of pioneers not content to be ruled by monarchy, we embrace ingenuity and effort, knowing that with the right idea and hard work, anyone can move from Horatio Alger’s rags to riches. We have also proven ourselves the most generous people on earth, giving of our blood and treasure to lead the world as a force for good. America must not apologize for its place at the head of the table.

Romney must also remind undecided voters that our nation’s prosperity is founded not on the success of our government, but on the success of our people. He must clearly state that millions of American small-business owners did build that, and that in so doing they braved the risk of losing their life savings in pursuit of their dreams.

Zinger moment: “The American people are not better off than they were four years ago, and our prospects, if we have four more years with you in charge, are not very bright. Your plan is more spending, more borrowing, more taxes, and a diminished America. My plan is to create jobs, cut spending, cut taxes, cut the deficit, cut the debt, preserve Medicare and Social Security, and ensure peace through strength.”

If Romney can communicate these five points, he can be our next president. The stage for the upcoming debates is already crowded with a cluster of current events, campaign gotchas, and global crises that hold great potential to overshadow what truly matters to undecided voters. Mitt Romney acted boldly when he chose Paul Ryan as his running-mate; the former governor must be equally bold in cutting through the partisan distractions and telling Americans what is wrong, how he will fix it, and what we can achieve together.

— George LeMieux is a former Republican U.S. senator from Florida.