Our little play on the 1992 Clinton campaign mantra — “It’s the economy, stupid” — came to the fore this week as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both went to the pocketbook playbook.
For the president, it was an appeal for tax fairness in the form of the Buffett Rule, a proposal to ensure the wealthiest Americans don’t pay a lower rate than middle-income earners.
“At a time when the share of national income flowing to the top 1 percent of people in this country has climbed to levels we haven’t seen since the 1920’s, these same folks are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years,” Obama told a Florida audience. “In fact, 1 in 4 millionaires pays a lower tax rate than millions of hard-working, middle-class households.”
Meanwhile, Romney was attempting a difficult two-fer — selling his economic vision as superior to the Obama plan and attempting to narrow the president’s advantage with women voters.
During a campaign swing through Delaware, the former Massachusetts governor met privately with women business owners. “If we’re going to get women back to work,” Romney told a crowd afterward, “we’re going to have to elect a president who knows how the economy works, and I do.”
After a grueling presidential primary season that left plenty of graffiti on the Republican Party brand, Romney has his work cut out for him. He’ll need to clean up an unappealing image of a party that is hostile on women’s health issues, immigration reform and health care, to cite but a few of the primary season flashpoints.
It’s difficult to imagine that calling the nation’s weak economy the “real war on women,” as Romney did Tuesday in Delaware, will move the needle drastically.
On Wednesday, the Romney campaign faced a follow-up question. Where does the candidate stand on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the equal-compensation law named for the Jacksonville woman treated unfairly by her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in Gadsden?
The initial response from a Romney adviser was to double-clutch and say, “We’ll get back to you on that.”
A meek follow-up from a Romney spokeswoman was, “He supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.” Not exactly a loving embrace of the law named for Ledbetter; more like an air-kiss.
Romney, who has extensive experience in the business world, should be on more comfortable ground talking about the economy, as opposed to Republican primary conversations about contraception and other social hot-buttons. However, hesitations on questions about topics such as equal pay for women risk dragging the Romney campaign back in the primary briar patch.