The fact that Mitt Romney has such an easy command of the numbers and specifics blunts a great deal of the criticism that his agenda is vague and without details. He hasn’t put forward some key specifics, of course, and there is no good reason, political or substantive, for him to do a great deal of that right now. What an actual Romney agenda would look like in January depends a great deal on what happens in the congressional races and in the economy. Committing himself to too specific an agenda right now just provides the Obama campaign with targets and limits his scope of action later.
Specifically, Romney was more persuasive than I’d expected in defusing the tax attack. When you are faced with somebody using a cheap debating trick — in this case, simply claiming that you support a position you do not support — the easiest line of defense is to point out that your opponent is in fact using a cheap debating trick, and Romney was very effective in doing that. Reiterating that he does not intend to radically cut taxes for the wealthy or raise them for the middle class is probably more effective than getting into a wonky discussion about the tax treatment of life-insurance investments.
But we should give Barack Obama some credit for his extraordinary candor on one issue: True to his word, he really isn’t all that good a debater.