Romney is now burdened with an economic platform that has rightly been called timid, with only small tax cuts. But the fiscal plans of other candidates are subject to attack as leading to enormous budget deficits when scored by neutral arbiters.
Romney's vaguer call for broadening the tax base and lowering tax rates, as in the bipartisan 1986 tax reform and as advocated by the Bowles-Simpson commission, is something that could actually happen. He hasn't been specific, but neither was Ronald Reagan in the election leading up to the 1986 law. Perhaps naively, I think Romney is thinking seriously about governing.
Barack Obama isn't, and that's one thing Republican candidates might want to bring up in the next debates. Obama rejected the Bowles-Simpson recommendations out of hand, and he seems untroubled that the Democratic-majority Senate hasn't produced a budget in 1,000 days.
That's contrary to the requirements of law, as is the administration's delay in sending up its own budget three years in a row.
But this is a president who flouts one law after another. He made recess appointments when the Senate was not in recess as required by the Constitution, and to one position when a law he signed requires Senate confirmation for the appointee to act.
He vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline on environmental grounds that the law says could not be considered. His policy on whether religious organizations can require employees to share their beliefs was swatted down by a 9-0 vote of the Supreme Court.
What we see is a president in pure campaign mode and cavalier about the rule of law, with policies -- higher taxes, environmental restrictions, more stimulus spending -- poorly suited to current needs.
The Republican candidates are struggling fiercely with each other. But a candidate who concentrates less on denunciation and more on governing could have an advantage in the fall over an incumbent who is doing more denouncing than governing himself.