A common theme heard in the wake of Mitt Romney’s primary victories is that the former Massachusetts governor’s platform is almost indistinguishable from President Obama. Even a cursory examination of the two men shows that the charge is manifestly untrue.
Perhaps the most obvious area of apparent similarity is health care reform. While governor of Massachusetts, Romney presided over the enactment of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance that President Obama has claimed as the inspiration for his own landmark legislation.
There are important key differences between the Romney and Obama laws. Not the least of these is the fact that Massachusetts did not face the same limits that the federal government faces under the Constitution. The federal government is granted certain powers under the Constitution. The rest are reserved to the states and the people. The federal government does not have the right to force people to engage in commerce, but the state of Massachusetts may have that power under its state constitution.
The Constitution notwithstanding, many Americans believe that the states should not have the right to mandate the purchase of health insurance or other products. In Massachusetts however, the reform plan was popular when it passed and remains so. A poll last year reported by Reuters found that 84 percent of Massachusetts residents are satisfied with the state’s health care reform. Nevertheless, Romney has repeatedly pledged to repeal Obamacare if elected and block its implementation with an executive order on his first day in office. Of course, President Obama would block any attempts to repeal his signature achievement and would try to pass a new version if it is struck down by the Supreme Court.
Another obvious difference is in the types of judges that President Romney would appoint. Because judges serve for life, the impact of judicial appointments will last far beyond the four-year presidential term. Under Barack Obama’s judicial philosophy, judges should have “empathy” for the poor and be “sensitive to issues of social justice” says the New York Times. In contrast, GOPprimary2012.com reports that Romney has said that he has a “strict constructionist judicial philosophy.” As governor of Massachusetts, he appointed lower court judges that were tough on crime. He reformed the judicial nominating process to make it easier for conservatives to be appointed and named a conservative to the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Judge Robert Bork, quoted by GOPprimary2012.com, said in 2008, “No other candidate will do more to advance the conservative judicial movement than Governor Mitt Romney… [He] is committed to nominating judges who take their oath of office seriously and respect the rule of law in our nation.”
Two of the most pressing issues faced by our country today are the skyrocketing federal debt and the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon. With respect to Iran and its rush to obtain a nuclear weapon, Obama has dragged his feet since his election. He failed to support the Iranian uprising in 2009 and continued to make diplomatic overtures to the Iranian government. The president resisted tightening sanctions until pressed by Congress. President Obama did, however, call an Iranian nuclear weapon “unacceptable” in an interview with The Atlantic and said that a “military component” would be the last option.
In a Republican presidential debate last January, excerpted on 2012.republican-candidates.org, Romney said, “… If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon....” He continued, “I will make sure that the sanctions, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure and support of insurgents within the country help them become dissuaded to get away from their nuclear ambition.”
Under President Obama, the federal debt has risen sharply, both in real dollars and as a percentage of GDP. The president has resisted almost all spending cuts. His proposed budget for 2013 was a $3.8 trillion package that did not get a single vote, Republican or Democrat, in the House of Representatives.
Mitt Romney has promised to immediately cut non-defense discretionary spending by five percent across the board. He supports Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would reform Medicare while preserving benefits for current retirees, create a simplified income tax system, and reduce non-defense discretionary spending below 2008 levels. Romney’s goal would be to reduce federal spending below 20 percent of GDP. His campaign website provides a roadmap of cuts to achieve that goal.
Closely related to the issues of spending and debt are taxes and regulation. President Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal regulation and has made no secret of his desire to raise taxes. A report by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee cited by the Washington Examiner states that the Obama Administration has “imposed 75 new major regulations costing more than $380 billion over ten years” and another 219 regulations that will cost $100 million or more.
According to MSNBC, Romney told supporters that he would consolidate or eliminate some departments and agencies of the federal government. Specifically, he said that he would “either consolidate [the Department of Education] with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller,” but that he would not eliminate it entirely. He also hinted that “things like Housing and Urban Development… might not be around later.” Romney said that he would “send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."
Romney also proposes regulatory reform. His proposal would work to repeal regulations that “unduly burden the economy or job creation.” He would also require the cost of new regulations to be offset by reducing the regulatory burden elsewhere. Romney would also propose a law that would require major rules to be approved by both houses of Congress, not delegated to federal bureaucrats via the administrative rulemaking process.
Even on social issues there are vast differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Barack Obama has unquestionably been a pro-abortion president and has worked to expand federal funding for abortion. In contrast, Mitt Romney, who admittedly favored abortion earlier in his career, has converted to the pro-life viewpoint. NARAL Pro-Choice America notes that Romney supports a constitutional amendment defining that life begins at conception and would defund Planned Parenthood. Romney also opposes Obama’s contraception and abortifacient mandate. Romney is endorsed by pro-life groups like the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.
Similarly, Barack Obama is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage and in 2011 announced his decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court on the grounds that he believed it to be unconstitutional. Vice President Biden’s recent comments about same-sex marriage may signal that repealing the DOMA will be a priority in Obama’s second term. In contrast, Mitt Romney has made clear that he supports traditional marriage. He opposed the 2003 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court while he was governor and supported a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage there. In a November 2011 interview linked on 2012.republican-candidates.org, Romney says that he believes that “the Defense of Marriage Act was well constructed and should be maintained.”
Mitt Romney may not be the first choice of many conservatives, but even a cursory example of his platform reveals that his plans for the country are not the same as President Obama’s. In many policy areas, the two men could not be more different. For the 62 percent of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track (according to Rasmussen), the choice should be clear.