Many have pointed out that Tim Pawlenty's big economic plan, unveiled yesterday, is so flagrantly cockamamie that he puts himself at risk of hurting himself with serious-minded conservative funders, not to mention eventual independent voters. I think he is taking a risk of that. But here's my guess at his strategy.
Most of the conservative base today sees two camps of economic theory: 1) the elitist, over-educated, ivy-tower, Harvard, Krugmanish liberal camp, with a bunch of charts and graphs; 2) the Commonsense Conservative camp.
Guess which one they like?
But guess which one provides Mitt Romney's economic-issues "credentials"? (Hint: Romney has a Harard MBA and uses PowerPoint!!!)
So, Pawlenty lays out a Commonsense Conservative "plan" that Mitt can't possibly bring himself to match. Well, T-Paw will ask, why not? Doesn't Romney believe in lower taxes? In smaller government? In entitlement reform? Doesn't Romney believe that lowering taxes and stripping down government even further than in the Reagan years will lead to even higher GDP growth than in the Reagan years? Don't tell me Romney agrees with the egghead Krugmanites that slashing government spending will hurt the economy? Next thing you know, he'll be spouting the liberal bogeyman that we need to raise the debt limit!!!
I'm not sure how Romney can play this. Nothing he can possibly do will prevent the above attack -- no matter how far he goes, he will end up, relative to Pawlenty, advocating higher taxes and bigger government. And his only defense for it will be that going as far as Pawlenty goes is irresponsible. And, that argument only makes sense if you say that at some point lowering taxes and cutting government actually do more harm than good to society. Which Romney knows to be true, but absolutely cannot say. So, where will your precious "economic credentials" be then, Mitt?
As always, I caution not to underestimate Romney's ability to find the way out of this trap. But I think Pawlenty is daring Romney to chase him down the far-right rabbit hole on Romney's core issue.