COMMENTARY | The Republican convention isn't until August, but presidential contenders have been competing for dollars, endorsers, airtime, and supporters for nearly nine months. They've participated in 18 of 29 scheduled debates. As competitors take turns leading the polls, Mitt Romney's support remains relatively steady.
Romney's economic plan reflects standard Republican positions -- reducing taxes and spending, and forcing the states to address massive national problems.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is running on his record of achievements, including stabilizing unemployment and the economy, reforming Wall Street oversight and consumer protection, ending the Iraq war, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, and making college and health care more affordable.
Incumbent presidents always have an advantage, but four domestic issues illustrate their fundamental differences and Romney's weaknesses, and they could pose problems with middle-class voters.
Jobs and the Economy
Obama's American Jobs Act will create millions of jobs restoring our dangerously crumbling infrastructure, thus promoting more private investment and expansion. His policies invest in American workers and American-made products, while extending retraining and unemployment benefits to workers whose employers shipped their jobs overseas.
Romney has no specific jobs plan, but emphasizes increasing trade, cutting corporate taxes, eliminating health, safety, and financial regulations, restricting organized labor while expanding organized corporate sovereignty, further limiting aid to the poor and unemployed, and capping federal spending.
Education and Training
Obama's programs raised education standards and invested in school buildings, teachers, scholarships, and the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. Now veterans and working and middle-class students can access a college education. His $2 billion investment in community colleges raised completion rates and created new programs for a modern workforce. He granted relief to states from Republican No Child Left Behind mandates, allowing more local solutions to education issues.
Romney would consolidate multiple federal job-retraining programs for unemployed workers whose skills are obsolete. He doesn't address traditional education at all.
Health Insurance Reform
Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn't reform health care. It reforms the way Americans pay for it. PPACA extends health insurance to 32 million Americans, including young adults dependent on their parents, patients with pre-existing conditions, and families with unemployed breadwinners. Now, insurance companies can't cancel coverage when patients get sick. By 2013, 88 million Americans will have access to more preventive care. It will reduce the deficit by $127 billion in 10 years.
Romney wants to repeal PPACA and replace it with "market-based reforms." He wants to expand Health Savings Accounts and limit legal damage awards to victims of negligent doctors.
Regulations don't appear from nowhere. Laws require government agencies to create them in order to apply the law for daily use. All are listed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. The strict regulatory procedure includes opportunity for public input.
Obama's Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act prevents future government bailouts of unscrupulous banks and investment firms and protects consumers from dishonest financial practices. His administration established new health and safety regulations for offshore oil drilling and chemical emissions from power plants, increased fuel economy for motor vehicles, and more state and local options under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Romney promises to eliminate Wall Street financial activity and environmental protection rules and to "review and eliminate Obama-era regulations."
The first three of these topics affect the daily lives of voters and are the kind of "kitchen table" issues that decide elections. The fourth is important because most voters aren't familiar with regulatory procedures, but they know when "there oughta be a law."