Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, continued Friday to deliver a message to those Republicans who still might harbor doubts about him: I'm really a lot more like Ronald Reagan, than you think.
For instance, asked in the wake of the September jobless report on Fox News' Fox and Friends what he would do to turn the economy around, Romney said:
"Well, you could learn some lessons from Ronald Reagan and what he did after the recession when he came into office and he made sure government was not burdening the enterprise system. He kept taxes low, held down regulation, expanded trade around the world and in the month of September following the recession he created, we actually created over a million jobs..."
(Note how co-host Steve Doocy jumps the shark by referring to Romney as "Mr. President." Romney appears to ignore him.)
A few hours Later in his national security speech at The Citadel in South Carolina where he spelled out his approach, Romney again sounded a Reaganesque note with a little of the 100-days Franklin D. Roosevelt thrown in.
In my first 100 days in office, I will take a series of measures to put these principles into action, and place America—and the world—on safer footing. Among these actions will be to restore America's national defense. I will reverse the hollowing of our Navy and announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from 9 per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system.
That Navy build-up is vintage Reagan as was the emphasis on missile defense. As NPR's Tom Bowman wrote when he reported for the Baltimore Sun:
Between 1980 and 1985, the number of dollars devoted each year to defense more than doubled, from $142.6 billion to $286.8 billion. The Navy increased its force from 479 combat ships to 525, while the Army bought thousands of the new Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. An Army attack helicopter called the Apache, a key weapon in both gulf wars, made its debut.
Hundreds of attack aircraft, from the Navy's F-14 Tomcat to the Air Force's F-15 Eagle, took to the skies, while the Pentagon rapidly modernized its nuclear force with the Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile, the Trident submarine and the B-1B bomber, wrote James Kitfield in his book Prodigal Soldiers, which chronicled the military's buildup in the 1980s.
Given the state of the nation's finances and the disappearance of the Soviet Union (though Romney warned that China could be the new USSR and that Russia is making a comeback) a buildup on the Reagan scale is certainly unlikely. Romney will also face obvious questions about where he would find the money to fund his much more modest naval buildup and a potentially very expensive, fully deployed missile defense system.
Despite that, for Romney, whose conservative credentials are constantly questioned because he held past positions on a range of issues out of step with conservatives, covering himself with Reagan's mantle can't hurt and might help, at least in the primaries.
It also made sense politically for Romney to give his national security speech in South Carolina, with its large community of military families and veterans.