Mitt Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, with a commanding 16 percent lead in New Hampshire and a 5 percent edge over the competition in Iowa. He is the former governor of Massachusetts and was runner-up for the GOP nomination for president in 2008. Mr. Romney has spent most of his life in private business, having founded Bain Capital investment firm and served as CEO of Bain & Co., one of the world’s leading business consultancies. A fellow Detroiter and auto-industry kid, his father George W. Romney was president of American Motors Corp., three-term governor of Michigan and a member of President Nixon’s Cabinet. You can find out more about Mitt Romney’s campaign at: http://www.mittromney.com.
Romney: The tax code must be made fairer, flatter and simpler. For individuals, I will press to make the George W. Bush tax cuts permanent to maintain low income-tax rates, eliminate the death tax and all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for middle-class families so that they can save tax-free. For businesses, I will lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and transition from a worldwide to a territorial system so that job creators are encouraged to invest their profits here at home. I will also pursue longer-term reforms that broaden the tax base while lowering rates.
Decker: What are the most important steps a new president should take immediately to get America back on the right track?
Romney: We have indeed been on the wrong track. Over the past three years, President Obama has taken us toward a European-style entitlement society in which government makes more and more key decisions about how we organize our economy and our lives. I would take the country in a different direction: toward a merit-based society with opportunities for all, and incentives for hard work and innovation, under a limited government. My plan for jobs and economic growth calls for a fundamental change in Washington’s view of how economic growth and prosperity are achieved and how jobs are created. I would work to create a small, smarter, simpler federal government that does only those things we need it to do, and does them as efficiently as possible. I will put every single government program to a simple test: Is this program so critical to our nation’s future that we should borrow money from China to pay for it?
I would immediately press for measures that reduce the federal government’s role in the economy, creating an environment where the private sector can thrive and where businesses and workers can realize their full potential. I would lower taxes and eliminate unnecessary regulation. I would promote trade policies that open more markets to our goods and services, energy policies that open more resources to our domestic producers, and retraining policies that open more opportunities for the unemployed to gain on-the-job skills. I would repeal Obamacare and restructure Medicaid so that each state takes on the responsibility of caring for its own citizens, and strengthen Medicare by moving to a premium support system that encourages free-market competition and gives future seniors greater choice and quality. All of these policies would be aimed at returning America to an opportunity society where government creates a level playing field and then leaves individuals to pursue their own course.
Decker: As commander in chief, what would you do about Iran’s program to develop nuclear weapons?
Romney: For years I have warned of the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. Thanks to President Obama’s failed diplomacy, the Iranian regime is now on the brink of obtaining nuclear weapons. Four more years of his policies will virtually guarantee that the ayatollahs succeed in obtaining the most terrible weapon known to man. To convince Iran to end its nuclear program, I will first impose crippling economic sanctions, including on Iran’s Central Bank. I will ensure the diplomatic isolation of the Iranian regime. Iran’s leaders should not receive the diplomatic trappings and respect offered to responsible national leaders. Instead, in light of his calls to wipe Israel off the map, I will work to indict Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under Article III of the Genocide Convention.
When Iranian dissidents faced a bloody crackdown after elections were stolen in 2009, President Obama hesitated to speak out on their behalf for fear of endangering his engagement policy with the Iranian regime. That was a disgrace. I will never fail to support Iranian dissidents. I will convey through actions - not just words - that a military option for dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions is very real and very credible. These actions include ordering the regular presence of aircraft-carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously, and increasing military cooperation with Israel and our regional allies. Either the ayatollahs will get the message that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable or they will learn some very painful lessons about the meaning of American resolve.
Decker: There’s some speculation about the Reagan coalition of defense hawks, social conservatives and economic libertarians starting to fray. Is it important to keep this marriage together for Republicans to win national elections? How can the standard-bearer be a source of unity for the party?
Romney: The Republican Party has always stood for a strong economy, a strong national defense and strong family values. That is not just the right approach for the Republican Party, it is the right approach for America and the right message to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I reject President Obama’s vision of an “entitlement society,” which drags everyone down to the same low level. I believe in a “merit-based society” in which hard work and risk-taking are rewarded and free enterprise and innovation flourish. Given the nature of the crisis we’re in, it is crucial that the Republican nominee be someone who has deep experience in the private sector and understands how the economy works. The nominee should carry the torch of Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy of “Peace Through Strength.”
Decker: The media has announced that the GOP primary is now a two-man race between you and Newt Gingrich. You have consistently been at the top of the field based on impressive debate performances and a well-oiled campaign machine. What separates you from your competition, and how can you nail down the nomination?
Romney: I have been taking my conservative message to President Obama’s doorstep from the day I entered this race. I believe I am the only candidate who can make this race a referendum on President Obama’s failed economic policies, and I intend to do just that. I spent 25 years in the private sector. I understand the economy because I’ve worked in the economy, helping to start new companies and turn around failing ones. I know a great deal about what kind of government policies can help to create jobs. I know even more about what kinds of misguided government policies cause investment to dry up and enterprises to cease hiring. I am a conservative and a family man. I’ve been married to the love of my life for 42 years and between us we have five sons and 16 amazing grandchildren. I hope to win the honor of being the Republican Party’s presidential nominee by talking about my record and my accomplishments, contrasting them to those of my opponents, and then letting the voters judge.