In his campaign to win the Republican nomination for President, expect former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to have a strong economic plan and to hit rival candidates hard on taxes. Romney has compiled a team of dedicated Reaganite supply-siders — many of whom also helped engineer President Bush’s tax cuts — to produce what Romney’s spokesman called a “very idea-based campaign.”
Communications Director Kevin Madden, who left his job on Capitol Hill as press secretary for House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), said, “Right now, we’re shaping up, the whole campaign is being put together very well. We’re going to be a very idea-based campaign, one that is going to have a very robust blueprint for meeting the challenges that the country is facing and is going to face in the future. The governor is a person who is going to be applying solutions, and those solutions are going to be devised around very forward-leaning, energetic, visionary policies.”
The Romney campaign is staffed by a number of experienced policy heavyweights. Leading the economic team are R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and N. Gregory Mankiw, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a free-market economist at Harvard. Hubbard was the chairman of President Bush’s National Economic Council from 2001 to 2003. Mankiw took the position until 2005.
Together, these men are considered the chief architects of the Bush tax cuts. Over the course of the campaign, these advisers are expected to give Romney the upper hand over Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) on taxes.When McCain infamously voted against the Bush 2003 tax cuts, he forced Vice President Dick Cheney to go to Capitol Hill to cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of them. The Arizona senator’s tax policies were recently the target of a lengthy attack by Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, who said, “American taxpayers cannot expect consistently pro-growth economic policies from a McCain Administration.”
Economist John Cogan, a senior economic advisor to George W. Bush when he was Texas governor and who directed his budget transition team, will be another key economic adviser and a major player on the Romney campaign team. Cogan has served as assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Labor, associate director in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and as OMB deputy director.
Former Special Assistant to President Bush on economic policy Brian Reardon, another veteran of Bush’s NEC shop, has also joined the Romney campaign. Reardon has front-line battle experience on tax policy from his service as staff director and chief economist of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. Former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Cheney and renowned tax strategist Cesar Conda has joined the Romney economic brain trust as well.
“The governor has a long record in business, especially strong in wiping away a $3- billion deficit without raising taxes,” Madden said. “He does have a strong economic advisory council, and these folks are helping with the economy, taxes and competitiveness.”
Former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber has become Romney’s overall policy chairman.Weber was a strong supporter of McCain’s 2000 presidential bid but, in this race, switched his allegiance to Romney.
Madden said, “Vin Webber is going to basically be the chairman of our ideas factory. He’s going to be serving a role similar to the one that Robert Zoelick served with then-Gov. Bush in 2000.”
Weber now leads the lobbying firm Clark & Weinstock and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.With Jack Kemp, he was a founder of Empower America. He also co-chaired an independent task force on U.S. Policy Toward Reform in the Arab World with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Rounding out Romney’s foreign policy shop is congressman Peter Hoekstra (R.-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra is now Romney’s intelligence adviser.
Former Missouri GOP Sen. Jim Talent is the chairman of Romney’s Domestic Policy task force.
Madden said that Talent was the ideal choice because “he’s someone who is very well versed in domestic policy issues. He has a strong reputation as having helped tailor a lot of Republican and conservative policies in this field while he was in the Senate.” As domestic policy adviser Talent will be on point for healthcare issues, helping to meld Romney’s approach to universal healthcare on a national scale. Talent campaigned for the Senate on a promise to allow small businesses to purchase their own health care plans through independent trade associations. He was not successful in passing any legislation to do this once elected, but he did work with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) to pass a bill to create a tracking system to ensure that active-duty military and Reservists got health-care screenings. Talent also worked with Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.) to pass a bill to fund treatment for sickle-cell disease.
After seeing their candidate pummeled on conservative websites as a “flip flopper” on abortion, the Romney camp has signed on nationally known pro-life lawyer James Bopp, Jr., who specializes in abortion and assisted suicide cases, as special adviser on life issues. A few months ago, a video surfaced online of a 1994 debate for Massachusetts’ Senate seat between Romney and Sen. Teddy Kennedy. At the event Romney said that abortion should be legal and that “regardless about choice, you would hope it would be safe and legal.” Since announcing his 2008 bid, Romney has promised he has become pro-life and as President would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bopp (who was a HUMAN EVENTS summer intern three decades ago) recently wrote an article in National Review defending the governor’s conversion from a reliable pro-choice advocate to a pro-life supporter. Bopp wrote: “The evaluation of Romney’s conversion needs to be considered in light of the pro-life movement’s consistent effort over the years to educate, and thereby convert, people to the cause.”
Other notable conservative political advisers Romney has secured include: Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.) and Rep. Tom Feeney (R.-Fla.).
Romney’s Key Advisors at a Glance:
R. Glenn Hubbard
Economic Advisory Co-Chair
Dean of Columbia Business School. Visiting professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School as well as the University of Chicago. Also a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Served as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department for Tax Policy from 1991 to 1993. Supervised administration efforts on revenue estimates, tax reform and health policy. Also has served on the advisory boards of several organizations, including the Congressional Budget Office, the Council on Competitiveness, the American Council on Capital Formation, the Tax Foundation and the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse.
N. Gregory Mankiw
Economic Advisory Co-Chair
Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Currently on leave from Harvard University where he is professor of Economics. A research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Congressional Budget Office, and a member of the ETS test development committee for the advanced placement exam in economics.
Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy, senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Co-chaired the independent task force on U.S. Policy Toward Reform in the Arab World with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Former member of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.
U.S. representative, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee
Domestic Policy Chairman
Distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, former U.S. senator who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, former U.S. representative who served on the House Armed Services Committee
James Bopp, Jr.
Special Advisor on Life Issues
Attorney with the law firm Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom in Terre Haute, Ind. Speciliazes in biomedical issues of abortion, forgoing and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment and assisted suicide. Former member of the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, the Congressional Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee and the National Institutes of Health, Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel.