Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Stimulus Deficit in Michigan

As the soft economy starts to dominate the presidential race, neither Mitt Romney nor John McCain has put out a really strong pro-growth message in Michigan.

In the last moments of the Michigan primary campaign, Romney has chosen to run as a native son, telling voters “I care very deeply about Michigan.” For his Straight Talk Express, Sen. McCain continues to press his hard-line assault on federal spending and bridge-to-nowhere earmarks. He also emphasizes a free-trade message. But neither candidate has put forward a so-called stimulus package as yet.

Sen. McCain has tasked Jack Kemp with pulling together a growth package that will probably include a corporate tax cut. But it is all very much up in the air right now. Phil Gramm has proposed a doubling of the mortgage interest deduction, but key McCain staffers oppose this. Over in the Romney camp, tax strategists Caesar Conda and Vin Webber had hoped to get a stronger supply-side message for Michigan, but the clock ran out.

Meanwhile, the polls show the race to be too close to call. There’s much discussion that Democrats and independents will ultimately decide the issue. Some conservatives grouse at this. But isn’t the reality that in order to win in November, the GOP must attract exactly those independents who walked away in November 2006? And as far as the Democrats are concerned, what about the legacy of the Reagan Democrats? Or for that matter, the George W. Bush Democrats, folks who tend to be Iraq war hawks, cultural conservatives, and strong opponents of federal overspending and earmarks.

In other words, tonight’s Michigan results may tell us a lot about electability come November.