At Reason, Sheldon Richman explains one of the major reasons Mitt Romney’s campaign for president fell short of victory:
Romney couldn’t call Obama to account because he fundamentally agreed with most of what the president did. He could hardly have substantively criticized Obama’s fiscal record: Romney had little specific to say about cutting the government’s deep-in-deficit budget, and he even proposed to leave education and other federal spending intact. While Romney talked about cutting income-tax rates, he emphasized that he had no intention of cutting government revenues, which represent resources extracted from the private economy. He proposed only revenue-neutral tax “reform.”
While Romney promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the architect of Massachusetts’ Romneycare was hardly in a position to offer a fundamental critique. The insurance mandate is the linchpin of Obamacare, but since Romneycare has the same mandate, what could the Republican candidate say? His weak federalist defense of state mandates versus national mandates sounded more like a rationalization. Moreover, Romney doesn’t understand what is wrong with America’s overpriced health-care system: the pervasive, monopolistic government privilege and regulation in the medical and insurance industries at both the state and federal levels. There is no free market in health care — something Romney does not get. As a result, he made the fatal mistake of implying that a partial repeal of Obamacare is all that is needed.
He also endorsed economic regulation, just to a vaguely lesser extent than what Obama favors. That only muddled the message. Romney showed no sign of understanding the relationship between regulation and privilege, which usually go hand in hand. So it’s not enough to favor deregulation; a true advocate of the free market favors “de-privileging” as well.
The biggest pass Obama got was on foreign policy and civil liberties, where his record has been horrendous. Of course, Romney could make no principled criticism because he basically approves of the record, though he claimed Obama hasn’t been aggressive enough.
As early as August, this lack of actual substantive differences between the candidates had already become quite clear.