Former senator Jim Talent, a top Romney surrogate, is optimistic about the governor’s chances in Michigan. But he cautions that the February 28 primary is one of many upcoming contests on the calendar — not the final lap of the GOP presidential race. “I feel reasonably good,” he tells National Review Online. “But at the same time, it’s a long and fluid process.”
And part of that process, Talent says, is peeling apart your opponent’s tax program.
Later this week, when Romney speaks at the Detroit Economic Club, Talent expects him to “contrast” his economic agenda with Santorum’s plan. Romney’s proposals, he says, will not include a tax exemption for manufacturers, which is the keystone of Santorum’s platform.
“Senator Santorum’s treatment of manufacturing amounts to a very substantial government interference in the way the market would invest capital,” Talent says. “When you have that big a difference, in particular, in the corporate-tax break on manufacturing, then you’ll have all the logical consequences of the government getting involved.
“You’re going to see enormously complex rules develop for what constitutes manufacturing and what does not,” he continues. “Is assembling manufacturing? Is it manufacturing to supply to manufacturers? What about transporting manufactured goods? And how much of an enterprise has to be manufacturing before it qualifies as a manufacturer? This is exactly what we don’t want, what the movement has been complaining about — business decisions being made in order to try and comply with what the government wants business to do.”
“Look, Senator Santorum grew up in Pennsylvania and his idea of a strong economy is a lot of manufacturing smokestacks,” Talent says. “Fair enough, he’s sincere in that. But he’s putting this gigantic preference for that in the tax policy. But he’s missed the fact, and Romney understands this, that 89 percent of the economy isn’t manufacturing. So now if you’re in servicing, finance, transportation, or professional work, you have to run uphill because you’re not in manufacturing. That’s not fair.”
“What Romney wants to do is remove the burden the government has put on manufacturing and every business,” Talent says. “He wants to address the cost of energy, reduce taxes in a neutral way across the board, create a better trade policy, and in general, provide regulatory relief. He knows that taxes are a problem but it’s also the government regulation that is holding down business development and job growth. [Santorum] sees things from his experience in government, and he wants to use government to help the sector to which he is sympathetic.”