NPR logo Romney, Unlike Competition, Keeps Head Down In Debt Fight

Mitt Romney

Romney, Unlike Competition, Keeps Head Down In Debt Fight

Mitt Romney Pataskala, OH, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Jay LaPrete/AP hide caption

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Jay LaPrete/AP

Mitt Romney Pataskala, OH, Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

Jay LaPrete/AP

Mitt Romney continues to keep a relatively low profile in the national debate over the debt-ceiling which has fit his general strategy at this phase of the race of not raising his presidential campaign profile too high.

It's arguably a wise approach for the frontrunner for the Republican nomination since no one knows now how this entire episode will play out.

It could be that voters won't look favorably in July 2012 on some off-hand comment made in July 2011, especially if a default happens with some nasty unintended and unforeseen consequences for the economy.

Which leaves Romney in an ironic position. He is the presidential candidate who sells himself for the White House on the basis of his experience as a successful businessman with economic savvy and as a problem solver. Yet, he refuses to engage fully on the debt-ceiling stalemate, a problem if ever there was one, even as the nation seems closer to default than ever.

Case in point. Romney was in Pataskala, Ohio, for instance, on Wednesday and didn't say much about the standoff in the nation's capital. As the Columbus Post-Dispatch reported:

Appearing before about 200 people at Screen Machine Industries yesterday, Romney did not mention the swirling controversy in his 20-minute speech and only fleetingly stated his position after being cornered by reporters.

"My position is very clear, which is, I favor a 'cut, cap and balance' program for federal spending," Romney said, ignoring follow-up questions.

His stance apparently comports with a bill favored by the tea party and passed last week by the GOP-controlled House - and killed by the Democratic-dominated Senate - that would require Congress to cut spending, cap future spending, and approve a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Romney's relative reticence contrasts with some of his rivals. And that may be what Romney is seeking, after all, that contrast.

On CNN's American Morning Thursday, Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota said that if Obama bypassed Congress and ordered the U.S. Treasury to continue borrowing after it had run through its authority on Aug. 2 or shortly thereafter, he would be a "dictator."

A few hours later, Bachmann appeared at the National Press Club to explain why she wouldn't be voting for Boehner's bill.

She has also has downplayed the consequences of a default as has Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas who is considering a run and Rep. Ron Paul.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative writer at the Washington Post, wrote in a blog post that these comments made Romney's presidential star shine all the brighter:

I suppose Mitt Romney was the closest of the Republican presidential contenders to sounding sane about the debt ceiling debate. Asked about the ongoing fight in Congress, a Romney spokesperson said, "Governor Romney thinks President Obama's leadership has been an historic failure. He applauds Speaker Boehner for standing firm against raising taxes when our nation can least afford them." Now this was before the revised Boehner plan, so it might have been wise not to endorse the specifics of a plan still in flux. At least he was in the ballpark.

She continues, noting that Pawlenty said he couldn't support the Boehner debt-ceiling bill and that Bachmann voted against "Cap, Cut and Balance", a bill virtually all other House Republicans voted for. For this, and other reasons, Rubin writes:

To say that all the default-denying candidates show a distressing shortage of maturity would be an understatement. One would hope that now that there is a final, final bill at least one of the contenders (Romney would be the most obvious) would give thumbs up to those who think they've gotten the very best deal possible without endangering the country's fiscal health. As for the rest, they should consider whether the bulk of Republican primary voters really want their president to sound like a second-rate blogger.