After his well-received speech before the conservative political action conference here last week, former governor Mitt Romney met with two key leaders in the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s.
Romney's dinner guests were Jack Kemp, the architect of the Reagan tax cuts that lifted the economy out of a deep recession, and former congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota, a key leader in the Opportunity Society band of House warriors who fought for lower tax rates to spur economic growth and entrepreneurial expansion.
Kemp has not signed on to any Republican presidential campaign as yet, but he likes Romney's emphasis on further cutting taxes on investment and savings and overhauling the tax code. Weber, a supporter of Sen. John McCain in the 2000 presidential primaries, has joined Mitt Romney's team and is encouraging Kemp to climb aboard early.
The meeting illustrates how much importance Romney is placing on tax cuts in his presidential bid and on economic advisers who share his belief in the Reagan economic model. Reagan made tax cuts the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, and Romney intends to do the same in his campaign for the Republican nomination.
In a PowerPoint presentation at the Detroit Economic Club last month, replete with an economic slide show, Romney said the country would face two choices on taxes next year, asking the business leaders, "What is the better course for America? A European model of high taxes and regulations, or low taxes and free trade, the Ronald Reagan model?"
"That's the choice the next president is going to make," he said, adding ominously that the Democrats were "already working hard to implement a massive tax increase."
You can tell a lot about politicians by the people around them, and that is especially true in presidential politics. Romney has already put together a stellar team of economic heavyweights:
-- Vin Weber, who is chairman of Romney's domestic policy board in charge of providing him with a broad range of economic proposals and advisers.
-- Cesar Conda, a longtime economic policy and tax-cut strategist on Capitol Hill who was chief domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and a key player in Republican tax-cut battles of the past two decades.
-- R. Glenn Hubbard, President Bush's first chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers who was on the short list last year for Fed chairman. A staunch tax cutter, he has been a key consultant to the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System.
-- N. Gregory Mankiw, a free-market economist at Harvard who chaired Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005, and has been an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Congressional Budget Office.