Perry and Bachman: Attack Obama, Be Vague on Jobs
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The Fiscal Times
September 1, 2011

As Labor Day nears, the battle of the jobs plans may seem to be heating up, but don’t expect all the frontrunners for the GOP nomination to dash to the podium with detailed proposals about how to get Americans back to work.

The three leading contenders for the Republican nomination have essentially laid out the same vague formula they would use to revive  country’s dismal employment market if elected: restrain government spending, kill off onerous regulations, cut taxes for businesses, and repeal  President Obama’s signature health law.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have all repeatedly chastised Obama for his economic policies, but of the field’s leaders, only Romney has made any move to directly take on the President with a jobs plan of his own. Romney will  announce his jobs blueprint Tuesday—one day before President Obama rolls out his plan to kick-start the job market.  

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman unveiled his plan to stimulate jobs yesterday, but with barely more than one percent of Republicans backing him in the primaries, it’s unclear how many voters will actually pay attention.   

Romney’s decision to lay out a concrete jobs initiative may be a direct response to Perry’s surge in the polls.  After leading the GOP field for the last few months, Romney is now trailing Perry, who entered the race two weeks ago.  A Quinnipiac poll out yesterday shows Republican voters favor Perry over Romney 24 percent to 18 percent, followed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin with 11 percent, and Bachmann with 10 percent. 

“[Romney is] doing it as a way to elevate himself to show that he’s the right Republican candidate who can take on the President,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean.  “This is absolutely a barb at Perry, which he hopes will help him regain the lead.”

Meanwhile, Perry is riding high on his poll numbers, touting Texas’ robust job growth--which he credits to his policies to keep taxes low and regulations “reasonable”-- as a testament to his job-creating abilities.   “Since I became governor in December 2000, Texas has added more than 1 million net new jobs while the rest of the nation has lost nearly 2.5 million jobs,” he wrote in a blog on his campaign website.  But critics say Texas’ achievement is simply a matter of luck-- the result of higher oil prices boosting jobs and tax revenue in the nation’s biggest oil and gas-producing state--and won’t translate on a national scale.  “I don’t think he’s really put forward, or will put forward an economic program for what he would do as President, but right now, the generalities seem to be working for him with his Texas statistics in tow,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. 

Though Bachmann is struggling to keep up with Perry’s meteoric rise, “She may not have much to gain by putting something on paper, and doesn’t have anything to lose by doing what she’s doing,” Bonjean said.  Her campaign strategy has always been to enliven her base by criticizing Obama as loudly as possible and continue to highlight her ultra-conservative approach to governing, he said.  “I have a jobs strategy for the President: Plan your own exit into a new job in the private sector in January 2013,” Bachmann said in a South Carolina speech earlier this month.  “A Bachmann Administration will create the climate of sound currency and certainty employers need to start hiring again.”

Outlining a definitive jobs agenda could be particularly hazardous for both Bachmann and Perry, particularly if it involves tax reform, Bannon said.  “They are afraid, with good reason, that the more specific they are, the more they will get in trouble with the Tea Party,” he said.  According to Bannon, any kind of credible tax reform that lowers rates will involve broadening the tax base by eliminating all or most tax breaks, including for large corporations, which will enrage Tea Party voters.  “The same things that will work for them in the general election will kill their chances of winning the GOP nomination.  So talking the talk sounds great next to that,” Bannon said.