Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won an endorsement that, at one time, was among the most coveted in all of American politics.
H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who launched a political movement and a created his own demographic (Perot voters) in his two unsuccessful bids for the White House, has thrown his support to Romney.
In a piece that appeared Tuesday in the influential Des Moines Register, Perot wrote:
Our country faces a momentous choice. The fact is the United States is on an unsustainable course. At stake is nothing less than our position in the world, our standard of living at home and our constitutional freedoms.
That is why I am endorsing Mitt Romney for president. We can't afford four more years in which debt mushrooms out of control, our government grows and our military is weakened.
In the late '80s and early '90s, Perot changed the course of American politics. His charts and graphs, numerous appearances on Larry King Live, and laser-like focus on the deficit helped break at least one president—George H.W. Bush—and help set the agenda for the Newt Gingrich Congress, which made balancing the federal budget its number one concern.
Perot's impact on American politics cannot be understated. The need to appeal to his "Perot voters" changed the Republican Party by altering the emphasis of its economic platform from the pro-growth messages of the Reagan years back toward the "green eye shade" accounting that had been the hallmark of the party since the days of Dwight Eisenhower. The GOP became the party of "bean counters" and, as former Delaware Gov. Pete du Pont said at the time in a widely circulated piece in the Wall Street Journal, no one should be surprised that people were now "counting beans."
This new approach made it easier for the Democrats in Congress—led by Minority Leader Dick Gephardt—and President Bill Clinton to pick apart what the GOP was trying to do and ultimately helped produce the government shut down that helped take the wind out of the sails of the new GOP congressional majority.
It is true that the shutdown proved the Republicans were serious about balancing the budget and that Bill Clinton would have to deal with them honestly—and it did lead to back-to-back-to-back GOP majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since the 1920s yet, say many who on Capitol Hill at the time, things were never quite the same after that.
Which is why it is encouraging that Perot, in issuing his endorsement, took time to mention Romney's bona fides as someone who knows how an economy works and how to make it grow.
Mitt Romney balanced the budget of his state for four straight years without raising taxes. Writing in all caps is called shouting, and that fact is something that deserves to be shouted from the rooftops. I should add that Gov. Romney accomplished this feat while working with a legislature that was overwhelmingly under the control of the Democratic Party in one of the most liberal states in the country. In short, although he is a rock-solid conservative, he knows how to reach across the aisle and make common cause with those with whom he disagrees.
The core of the Romney tax plan is the idea that higher growth—in the range of 4 percent per year as opposed to the anemic growth rate of less than 2 percent that is the current order of the day—will produce higher revenue for the federal government at lower tax rates. Incomes will be taxed at lower rates but their will be more income to be taxed that, when coupled with responsible spending, will make up the difference without adding to the deficit over the long term.
Perot's support is a key indicator for a considerable portion of the American electorate, especially among the Tea Party voters who may still be wondering whether Romney has the right stuff to turn the economy around. His endorsement communicates to a broad section of the voting population that the Romney tax plan will work, despite the criticisms leveled against it by President Barack Obama. It's another indication that it's safe to make a change, that it's okay to vote Republican in the upcoming election.
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