The first of three presidential debates between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney will take place Wednesday evening. Even though both sides are downplaying the debates and their candidate's ability to win, the debates allow the country to see up close and personal who these two opponents really are, how they handle pressure, and what their plans are for the country should they win election. Considering the state of the economy, with GDP growth at abysmal levels and unemployment at high levels, President Obama should have a hard time winning re-election, but for some reason he is ahead in the polls. Some claim this is because the polls are faulty, but when it's every poll, that logic doesn't seem to carry water. As we gear up for Wednesday night, what is Romney's biggest problem going into the debates?
Romney's biggest problem going into the debates actually didn't start with Romney himself. It started back in November of last year when Republicans started to fight the payroll tax deduction extension into 2012. That is when Republicans started to become unreliable and untrustworthy on the issue of taxes. The issue of taxes and the tax code is something that Republicans have been able to champion ever since Ronald Reagan reformed the tax code. Since then big names in the Republican party have proposed big reforms to the tax code, but have never gained enough traction to take hold. Those proposals include Steve Forbes' flat tax plan in 1996, Mike Huckabee endorsing the FairTax in 2008, and Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan last year.
So where does Romney enter into the equation? Romney has proposed a very large tax plan overhaul. The plan is to reduce marginal rates on all income tax buckets by 20% and pay for those reductions by eliminating deductions and loopholes in the tax code. Sounds like a great plan right? Actually it does. The biggest problem with our tax code today is that there are way too many deductions and loopholes in the code, which allows some to pay far less than intended because of these tax giveaways. So eliminating deductions and loopholes is what we need. So what is the problem?
The problem is the Romney campaign has made a strategic decision to not specify what deductions and loopholes they will eliminate in order to keep his tax plan revenue neutral. No hints, no giveaways, no absolutes. Romney refuses to give any details to the point of defiance. His VP pick Paul Ryan is one of the best numbers people in Washington today. Even he was defiant this weekend to give out specifics when interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Wallace asked Ryan specifically to go through the numbers with him. Ryan refused. Not only did Ryan refuse, he said "Well, I don't have the — it would take me too long to go through all of that".
This is the biggest problem Romney has going into the debates. His credibility on taxes, the entire Republican party's credibility on taxes, is in question. When you cannot give out details and specifics about how your tax plan will work and expect the public to trust that the math works, even when others claim the math doesn't work, you have a big problem. If Obama is wise, he will bring this up in the debates and try to get Romney to paint himself into a corner as unreliable and untrustworthy on the tax issue because he refuses to name specifics on his proposal. Romney's only out is to name several specifics at the debates when Obama plays that card. If he doesn't, he will play right into Obama's hands.