The Washington Post asked Republicans who ran or considered running for president this year what the remaining contenders should focus on heading into the Iowa caucuses.
Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi:
If the 2012 election is about President Barack Obama’s policies and the negative results of those policies, he won’t be re-elected; so if I were campaigning, I’d talk about how his policies have made economic growth and job creation harder.
Republicans and independents want a straightforward, accurate discussion of Obama’s proposals for the largest tax increase in history, which falls mostly on job creators; his unprecedented explosion of the federal debt, primarily caused by his skyrocketing government spending; creation of a government-run health-care system that will increase the cost of both health care and health insurance; an energy policy that would drive up energy costs so Americans will use less of it; and excessively expensive and onerous regulation.
Those Obama policies will elect a new Republican president because they make it harder to create jobs and stimulate growth.
The plain-spoken truth about issues such as controlling spending on entitlements and promoting economic growth and deficit reduction through tax reform will pay off in the primaries and in November. Voters are sick of happy talk and cheap attacks. They’re ready for problem-solving, and they know it requires tough decisions.
Finally, I’d attack Obama’s policies and offer solutions instead of attacking primary opponents. As conservative as I am, remember that the middle will decide the election in November, and the center agrees with us on the critical issues.
Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, Republican nominee for vice president in 2008:
Given the concerns I have for some of the Republican field’s focus thus far, I must implore the candidates to do something that sounds self-promoting, but whatever. Candidates, please turn to Chapter Three of “Going Rogue” and read what it takes for our country to step toward energy independence. Note the lesson I share in the same chapter about taking on the “elite,” the crony capitalists and the permanent political establishment to get a job done.
Do you really realize what is at stake? What is at stake is our republic. The gravity of today’s situation is real. We count on you to lead our nation on the right path. Please let us know you realize this. Understand how the left’s terrifyingly naive assault on U.S. industry exposes us to the mercy of foreign regimes whose prime objective is, at worst, our permanent demise and, at best, is stripping away our freedom. God has blessed America with ingenuity, natural resources and the strength of our workforce. Let’s use them. Tell voters that you understand this. Talk about this on the campaign trail. And quit gripin’ and moaning about “inside baseball” partisan machinations and maneuvering. We have other things to worry about. Stay strong. Focus on defending our republic and how we’ll re-industrialize our most exceptional nation in order to defeat the incumbent and win for America.
Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana; author of “Keeping the Republic”:
One hopes in 2012 for a campaign that levels with the American people about the brute, mathematically certain dangers of our indebtedness and that trusts them enough to present a program of change, specific and sufficiently bold to restore the promise of upward mobility for all.
The advocates of change should stress our commonality, never our divisions. Every American, regardless of category, will be harmed if we continue following Europe into debt disaster. Every American, regardless of ideology, has a vital stake in a private economy that grows far faster than current policies permit and thus provides opportunity to each individual and revenue to fund whatever level of public activity we decide is appropriate.
Tax reform, domestic energy production and a regulatory pause must be advocated as indispensable for poor people, unemployed people and, especially, young people. All close calls must be made in favor of private growth. Today’s blind, anti-growth zealotry must be contested as the cruel, pro-poverty policy it is. Prospective reforms to save the safety net must be advanced with aggressive confidence. With survival literally at stake, and broad consensus required to enable major changes, arguments about secondary issues should be muted.
The absence of an alternative world currency and investment havens has given this ever-fortunate nation a precious, maybe final, chance. Those who would lead us after 2012 should campaign to govern, not merely to win.
Herman Cain, former chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza:
This year is the time to get bold. Bold tax reform must be on the lips of every politician, the media and every voter. Americans have been victimized by a tax code that has corrupted our free-market economy by doling out favors, picking winners and losers, and dividing our nation with class warfare. Likewise, they have been victimized by the idea that we can spend our way to prosperity.
The bold solution is my 9-9-9 plan. It’s simple: a 9 percent business flat tax; a 9 percent individual flat tax; and a 9 percent national sales tax. An official who served in the Reagan Treasury Department said that, in addition to being simple, 9-9-9 is “fair, efficient, neutral and transparent.” My plan allows Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money and to trust the government to be good stewards of the money it takes.
We also need a bold energy policy. America has an abundance of natural gas and oil that is trapped — not by soil and rock but by excessive regulation and politicians too timid to take on the environmentalists’ attack on energy independence and prosperity. Remove these shackles, and the United States could become the world’s top energy producer.