Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night. Technically, he tied for victory with Rick Santorum. But Romney is the one who comes out of Iowa in the lead for the nomination. He entered with a massive lead over Santorum in fundraising, organization and polling numbers in New Hampshire, which votes next. The most recent poll in New Hampshire, released Monday, shows Romney in first with 41 percent and Santorum in fifth with 3 percent. While Santorum held over 300 town hall meetings in Iowa, Romney largely avoided the state, skipping out as recently as Friday to campaign in New Hampshire. Romney roughly equaled his last performance in Iowa without investing nearly as much campaign resources into it.
By devoting far more time to New Hampshire than Iowa, Romney managed the expectations game perfectly. It was also assumed in this cycle that Iowa would go to a socially conservative anti-Romney. After going through every other option, Iowans settled on Santorum. The real test will come in South Carolina, which much more reliably picks the Republican nominee than Iowa. If Romney can build his momentum to win there after picking up New Hampshire, he is poised to turn the nomination battle into a swift coronation.
But before Romney takes the GOP mantle, here are ten questions he should answer about his often nonsensical and contradictory policy proposals.
• In a Friday op-ed in The State, you declared your intention to “rebuild our military with more ships, a modern air force, more troops and better care for our veterans.” Why exactly do you think we need more naval ships? What attack has there been on US soil or the US military that would have been prevented by more naval ships? Given that more ships and more troops will cost more money, and we already wildly outspend every other country’s military, and you say you want to balance the budget, why do you want to spend even more on the Department of Defense? Why did you suggest privatizing the health insurance for veterans, who currently enjoy the best care of any population in the US, and then reverse yourself?
• In the same op-ed, you wrote, “President Obama wants to change America from an opportunity society to an entitlement society, in which government takes from some to redistribute to others. His aim to create equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity.” What, exactly is your evidence for this claim? Has President Obama proposed to tax the wealthy so heavily that they will end up with the same after-tax income as the poor? Are you no longer able to live comfortably due to Obama’s economic policies?
• In a speech in Merrimack, New Hampshire, on Friday you said the United States “should have active efforts to aid [dissidents] in Iran,” and that President Obama “should have spoken out” in support of protests in Iran in 2009. Given that most Iran experts agree that such actions would make it easier for the Iranian government to paint the opposition as a foreign puppet, why do you say this? Wouldn’t it be counterproductive? Are you just indulging your own moral vanity instead of actually trying to bring about change in Iran? Why did you sneer at President Obama saying he doesn’t to get involved in other countries’ internal affairs? Do you think foreign governments should encourage anti-government protests in the United States?
• At the same event on Friday you were asked about creating national voter initiatives similar to state ballot initiatives. You said, “One state with a lot of voter initiatives is California. If there’s one state that’s in a big mess, that’s California.” That’s true, and you’re right that voter ballot initiatives are a bad idea for that reason. But the ballot initiative in California that rendered it ungovernable is Proposition 13, which made it impossible to raise property taxes when necessary. You support a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would tie the federal government’s hands. Isn’t that hypocritical of you? If you see the foolishness of preventing a legislature from responding to changing circumstances at the state level, why do you support such a measure at the federal level?
• You like to complain about businesses’ lacking certainty in the regulatory environment. You also say you would “put on hold every regulation President Obama has enacted.” How does this increase, rather than reduce, certainty? How would repeal of the Affordable Care Act and financial regulation, which you’ve also promised, increase certainty for businesses?
• You say that the ACA is an unconstitutional affront to American liberty, but you defend your healthcare reform in Massachusetts, which served as a model for it. You square these two claims by saying that you think each state should decide its own healthcare policy and that what is good for Massachusetts is not necessarily good for every other state. Why do you think health insurance policy should be set at the state level? What exactly is different about the problem from one state to the next? What other approaches than the individual mandate would you endorse at the state level? Why do you think a state such as Wyoming, which has only 563,626 residents, should set up its own policy to hold down costs and cover the uninsured? Why do you think such small populations are better equipped to handle this problem than the nation as a whole? Do you not think that 50 million uninsured Americans and spiraling healthcare costs create a national problem?
• At a November debate in South Carolina you said, “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.” How exactly do you know that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon if Obama is re-elected? How exactly can you guarantee that Iran won’t get one if you are elected? How would you stop them? What would you do that President Obama isn’t already doing? If you are concerned about nuclear proliferation, what do you think of the new START treaty President Obama negotiated with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals by one-third? Why didn’t you speak up in favor of it at the time? What do you think of the Senate Republicans’ initially holding it up?
• You claim that your business experience makes you the best candidate for reducing unemployment. If that’s so, why did Massachusetts have the forty-seventh best rate of job creation during your tenure as governor? What did you do to improve job growth in Massachusetts? Why did Massachusetts perform better at job growth under Democratic predecessors such as Michael Dukakis and your successor Deval Patrick? If you believe so strongly in the primacy of the free market, why do you suggest that a governor or president has much control over the unemployment rate at all?
• You say that you created more jobs in Massachusetts than Obama has as president. But that’s based on a false depiction of Obama’s job-creation record. As Paul Krugman shows, you are holding Obama accountable for jobs lost at the beginning of his term as a continuation of the financial crisis that began under George W. Bush. Once Obama’s policies took effect, unemployment began to decline. Do you think it is honest and fair to blame Obama for unemployment data from February 2009? Do you think you should be held accountable for economic conditions in your first month in office?
• At a rally on Monday in Iowa, you said, “I’ll clamp down on China that’s been cheating. They’ve been stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our know-how, our brands; they’ve been hacking into our computers. That has got to stop. I will stop it if I’m president of the United States.” How? The only tactic you’ve proposed is branding China a currency manipulator. How do you respond to former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman’s concern that that could trigger a trade war? What other mechanisms could you use? How would you respond to the well-founded concern that you are just engaging in empty campaign demagoguery?