The Wall Street Journal has a tough but fair-minded editorial on the prospect of yet another Mitt Romney presidential campaign. Its main arguments will be familiar to both critics and supporters of the former Bay State governor, who is reportedly considering a bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. One sentence in particular caught my eye: In the course of describing his mistakes and shortcomings as a candidate in 2012, the Journal correctly notes that Romney “never laid out an economic narrative to counter Mr. Obama’s claim that he had saved the country from a GOP Depression and needed more time for his solutions to work.”
That’s a very important point, because the debate over who should succeed President Obama in the White House will almost certainly feature a renewed battle over the causes of the 2008 financial crisis.
Indeed, GOP calls for reversing Obamanomics will be met with a simple Democratic response: “Republicans want to go back to the policies that caused the crash.”
It may seem like a ridiculous charge — and it is — but it’s one that proved politically effective in 2012 and could do so again in 2016. As James Capretta wrote recently, “The crash was such a traumatic
national event that it will probably still resonate with some voters in 2016.” Republicans need a persuasive rebuttal.
To be sure, the roots of the 2008 crisis are still being debated, quite fiercely, among academic economists, and it would be impossible to explain all the key issues in a two-minute debate answer. However,
it should be easy for Republican presidential hopefuls to quickly and convincingly refute the argument that Bush-era deregulation and fiscal policy were to blame. Mitt Romney failed to do so in 2012. The GOP’s 2016 nominee will have to do better.