The few specifics Romney offers include repealing Obama's health care law, cutting federal payrolls, weaning Amtrak from subsidies, trimming foreign aid and curbing the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled. Those steps would not get him close to his overall goals. But he's offering few other details.
"I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them," Romney told Florida campaign donors in April, in remarks overhead by reporters. "Some eliminate, but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," he said. To date, he has stuck to that strategy.
House Republican leaders routinely force the Defense Department to keep spending money on programs and weapons systems it wants to scrap. The GOP-led House recently rejected efforts to trim Pentagon spending on military bands and sponsorships for sports organization such as NASCAR.
If a debt-ridden government can't reduce spending on military musicians, critics say, how can it hope to make much deeper and more painful cuts in programs such as Medicare and Social Security?
Lawmakers defend existing programs, of course, because their constituents — the American people — want them, sometimes desperately.
Christie was right to say voters should hear "hard truths" and brace for pain if the nation is to control deficit spending. Of course, voters often reject politicians who peddle such medicine.
In a National Journal poll, three-fourths of Americans said Social Security should not be cut at all, and four-fifths said the same about Medicare.
A CBS News poll found that 45 percent of Americans say they will accept less local government if it means significantly lower taxes. As Romney and other politicians know, however, the appetite for smaller government drops as the debate becomes more specific.
Eighty percent of those polled by CBS said they would not accept fewer firefighters and police officers, for instance.
Sen. John McCain used the word "trust" seven times in his convention speech lauding Romney.
"I trust him to lead us," said McCain, who defeated Romney and others to become the party's 2008 nominee.
Romney, a well-financed candidate who has been running for president for five years, is an attractive alternative for millions of voters ready for change.
As for the sliver of undecided voters wondering exactly what he would do if elected? He asks for their trust.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Charles Babington covers national politics for The Associated Press.
An AP News Analysis
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