The Romney campaign will be similarly static, based on a single notion that it has never really thought through beyond mimicking a focus group: big government is bad. Obama, at least, appears to appreciate that Americans’ views on the Washington bureaucracy are more complex. Like a majority of Americans, Governor Romney opposes Obamacare, even though he once championed a similar law in his home state. But what about the new law’s enormously popular ban on denying health insurance coverage for Americans based on preexisting conditions? Does Romney want to repeal that too? Similarly, Romney will reflexively support vague “reforms” to the government’s massive entitlement programs. But how will he respond to his party’s plans to replace Medicare or Social Security with something that may prove far less popular? What cogent, bold, risk-taking arguments will the governor make? So, too, Romney will call for large cuts in federal spending. But what about cutting money for things Americans like, such as the Defense Department, student loans, the environment, America’s highways, or Uncle Floyd’s disability payments? Obama will say he stands for making government work while Romney stands for lobbing a wrecking ball into the American dream and telling its citizens “to fend for themselves.” Where in the governor’s carefully crafted talking points are answers to any of this?
If Obama is really smart—and he may not be—he will even go a step further. Imagine the president standing in front of a padlocked government building and saying that he is putting it up for sale. Or arriving at a federal agency and announcing that he is going to put it out of business. Or conducting an audit of the federal bureaucracy by an outside agency—and then revealing to the American people exactly how their money is spent, or wasted. What if Barack Obama became the first president who actually reduced the size of the federal government? That’s a feat even Ronald Reagan couldn’t achieve.