A more serious Mitt Romney?: 'Bold,' 'astute' speech draws wide praise

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Mitt Romney at the Defending the American Dream Summit from AFPhq on Vimeo.

The speech Mitt Romney gave Friday stands out from the others in his Republican primary campaign. Bold was one word used to describe it today by both the Wall Street Journal editorial board and New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Brooks.

Brooks wrote that Romney is running "an impressive presidential campaign" in a column Tuesday titled, "The Serious One." Brooks concluded that "Romney is running in an atmosphere in which it is extremely difficult to remain serious and substantive. Yet he is doing it. Democrats should not underestimate him."

The column was based on Romney's speech Friday at the "Defending the American Dream" summit in Washington, D.C.. The event was hosted by Americans for Prosperity, and Romney mapped out his proposals for the U.S. budget.

The speech got a tepid response because the crowd was largely made up of fiscal conservatives tied to the tea party, reported Alicia M. Cohn for the Hill's Ballot Box blog. But others praised Romney, including Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who told National Review Online's Robert Costa that Romney's speech "shows we're all singing from the same hymnal. It shows me that (Romney's) willing to be bold and specific on the big issues of the day."

"It was politically astute and substantively bold," Brooks wrote, "a quality you don't automatically associate with the Romney campaign."

The conservative Journal editorial board also reviewed the speech on Tuesday in an editorial titled "Romney's Fiscal Awakening":

"It's notable," the editorial stated, "that the former Massachusetts governor is finally beginning to wade into the deeper end of the reform pool."

Romney proposed reforms of the expensive entitlement programs that are major concerns now and going forward — Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. His proposals sounded loud echoes to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's plan, but came with a new twist that Brooks and the Journal considered smart and creative because it just might work in both reality and in a campaign.

Brooks wasn't surprised, he wrote: "The Romney campaign operates like a smooth-running White House, with a process to identify the core issues, cull ideas and present options to the candidate."

Those ideas include:

Reverse President Obama's defense cuts, but bring government spending back down to 20 percent of the gross domestic product by the end of his first term; the Obama Administration has grown government spending to 24 percent of the economy

Repeal "Obamacare"

Privatize Amtrak and cut down subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Reduce foreign aid

Eliminate Title X family planning funding

Reduce the federal payroll by at least 10 percent

The boldest ideas were reserved for the entitlement programs.

On Social Security, he wants to gradually raise the retirement age to keep pace with longer life spans

On Medicaid, Romney wants to turn it back to the states to craft solutions that fit them

On Medicare, Romney called for two options for seniors: the fee-for-service system now in place, which critics say is an incentive for health care providers to worry more about quantity than quality or cost, and a premium support system in which the government gives beneficiaries money to shop for their own health care plans