The Morning Plum: No, Romney and Ryan don’t really want a `great debate’: Ever since Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, it’s been widely claimed that this ensures a “great debate” pitting two starkly different ideological visions…. [But] the GOP ticket doesn’t want a great debate at all. Their entire strategy is designed to obscure the true ideological differences between both sides…. Romney has refused to detail his positions on issue after issue…. If they did want a contest between two grand visions, they wouldn’t be shying away from discussing the true nature and implications of their own vision. Yet they are doing just that.
This explains why the Romney campaign has been campaigning so heavily on two falsehoods about Obama’s policies: That he gutted welfare reform’s work requirement and raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The former claim is a distraction; the latter is about muddying the two sides’ actual differences…. The muddying is necessary because the actual Ryan vision for Medicare’s future is deeply unpopular. Same on taxes: Romney won’t detail how he’d pay for his deep tax cuts — which would disproportionately benefit the rich — because paying for them with middle class tax hikes would be politically unacceptable….
This… explains what Ezra Klein has called the “policy gap” between the campaigns, in which only one side is proposing actual policies…. The GOP candidates vaguely promise… without saying with what — because admitting they’d replace them with nothing would be politically unthinkable.
Romney wants to repeal the unpopular Obamacare, and promises he’d do something for some people with preexisting conditions — because replacing it with nothing would be even more unpopular. Romney says he’d get rid of Wall Street reform, and vows to replace it with unspecified “common sense” regulations — because replacing reform with nothing is also a political nonstarter. Romney says he’d cut whole agencies to make government more efficient and cost-effective, but won’t say which ones; and Ryan won’t explain in meaningful detail how he’d achieve the draconian spending cuts necessary to make his numbers work — because when the talk turns to specifics, suddenly cutting government is politically very difficult indeed, and gutting social programs would be very unpopular. Romney and Ryan won’t say how they’d pay for their tax cuts — because they must be paid for by hiking the middle class’s tax burden or exploding the deficit, neither of which is politically palatable….
Two more must-reads relating to the above. Steve Benen has been doing a nice job arguing that Romney’s historic levels of mendacity pose a serious test for the political system, and here’s another good post on this today. Meanwhile, Dana Milbank has some good campaign trail reporting illustrating the Romney campaign’s studious lack of specificity. This quote from Romney is priceless: “I want to make sure that we get Obamacare out of the way and replace it with something which will help encourage job growth in this country.” As Milbank rejoins: “Replace it with ... something?”