The complaints from top conservative voices about Mitt Romney's lack of vision -- and news stories about the same -- have stacked up over the past two months. Here are the top 11 knocks on the presumptive Republican nominee for president:
- Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: “You have to campaign to govern, not just to win. Spend the precious time and dollars explaining what’s at stake and a constructive program to make life better. And as I say, look at everything through the lens of folks who have yet to achieve. Romney doesn’t talk that way.”
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: "The best thing he could do between now and November, because this is a very competitive state and we hope to see him here throughout the next several months, is to get out and make a very compelling case about how he's willing to take on the tough challenges. You know, Paul Ryan and I grew up just down the road from each other. We love people like Paul Ryan in Wisconsin because Paul has the courage to tackle these big issues at the national level. If Governor Romney wants to be competitive in Wisconsin, and I think he can, he needs to tackle those same issues."
- Former Bush White House policy adviser Yuval Levin: "It is more difficult, however, to see why Mitt Romney would not be laying out the nature of America’s predicament before the public. He has begun to offer an agenda that speaks to some key elements of the predicament, but he has not made a coherent case for that agenda as a whole, and so ends up presenting voters with laundry lists of policy ideas wrapped in general criticisms of Obama. He has yet to state clearly the problem to which he offers up his economic policies as a solution. The problem is that America is unprepared for the future, and Barack Obama is not so much the cause of that problem as the embodiment of it. He stands for what has gone wrong, and his ideological views, his party’s most powerful constituencies, and his policy commitments stand in the way of America’s future prosperity. A proper understanding of the nature of that problem would not only help to show voters why Obama must be sent packing, but would also reinforce the case for Romney’s particular strengths in this unusual moment. The Romney campaign has yet to make an overarching case for the candidate. They would be wise to notice that a careful assessment of what America lacks as a new global economic order takes shape could add up to just such a case."
- The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan: "Mr. Romney has to give us a plan. He has to tell us his priorities. To lead is to prioritize, to choose: 'We will take this path, at this speed, toward this end.' He hasn't done this yet."
- The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol: "He’s had a good beginning to his general election campaign. But he could do more, it seems to us, to help mold public sentiment—to explain, to quote Lincoln again, 'where we are, and whither we are tending,' so as to help us “better judge what to do, and how to do it.” He could do more to put his particular criticisms of the Obama administration in a broader context, and to frame his own proposals in a more comprehensive narrative. After all, Romney has to convince the American public that they need to do something they’re not usually inclined to do—replace a sitting president with a challenger. And unlike in 1980 and 1992, when the public was persuaded to do just that, the incumbent president has not been weakened by a primary opponent."
- National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru: "A defense of the two entitlement programs as now structured would not be the most edifying of spectacles. It would require Obama to foster the false impression that the approaching insolvency of our welfare state has painless solutions. But it would force Romney to confront the issue head-on, and the country would get the important debate it deserves rather than months of sniping about trivial side- issues and non-issues."
- The New York Times' David Brooks: "Mitt Romney has been more straightforward, but even he hasn’t campaigned on the choices he would make. If Walker wins, the presidential candidates would have to be as clear before their election as Walker has been after his."
- The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin: "But in the last couple of weeks it is apparent that the Romney team is a step slow, and almost indifferent to a number of critical issues. The substance of Romney’s immigration proposals was fine, but the presentation and refusal to compare his ideas to the president’s suggested the campaign was embarrassed to talk about its policies. The campaign seems to prefer fuzziness over a confident recitation and explanation of what it is doing ... The return to the lethargy of the early primary days and the 'we don’t have to talk about anything but the economy' attitude seem to be creeping back in Romneyland ... Get over the idea that the only thing to talk about is the economy. Yes, it is most important subject and, yes, it is a good issue for Romney, but in order to prevent death by a thousand pinpricks and convince voters he is a credible president, he’s got to walk and chew gum at the same time. The president doesn’t get to talk or act on only one thing at a time."
- Slate's John Dickerson: "Is Romney offering an 'unprecedented' level of specificity? This is an exciting claim, but it is contradicted by history. Next to me is my worn copy of Renewing America's Purpose, the 450-page volume of George W. Bush's policy addresses and proposals from 1999-2000. By this time in the 2000 campaign, Bush had unveiled a lot more policy than Romney has, including a plan to offer workers the ability to invest some of their Social Security money in private accounts. 'Mr. Bush is dominating the policy debate,' the Economist wrote 12 years ago this month. '[He] has seized on the opportunities to appear both bipartisan and statesmanlike.'"
- Politico's Jonathan Martin: "Last summer, Romney waited until virtually the last possible moment to weigh in on the standoff over the debt ceiling – and then sided against congressional GOP leaders who cut an 11th hour deal with the White House. When the Republican laid out his tax reform plan earlier this year in Detroit he proposed lowering all income tax rates by 20 percent and indicated he’d pay for such reduced revenue by eliminating deductions – without naming which ones he’d eliminate. Romney has even admitted that his plan can’t be fully evaluated because he hasn’t named the offsets ... The cuts he has identified have tended to come with price tags closer to the million than to the trillion dollar mark. Romney supports privatizing Amtrak, cutting foreign aid, reducing funding for programs like the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He argues that eliminating Obama’s health-care bill would save billions, but independent budget analysts aren’t so sure."
- Noonan (her second column on the subject): " The Romney strategy the past eight weeks has been, in a small way, shrewd: have the candidate out there talking in a candidate-like manner, but don't let him say anything so interesting that it will take the cameras off Mr. Obama. The president is lurching from gaffe to mess, from bad news to worse. Don't get in his way as he harms himself. It's working, but won't for long. People want meaning, a higher and declared purpose ... Mr. Romney has to start pulling from his brain and soul a coherent and graspable sense of the meaning of his run. 'I will be president for this reason and this. I will move for this and this. The philosophy that impels me consists of these things.' Only when he does this will he show that he actually does have a larger purpose, and only then will people really turn toward him. He has to tell Americans why they can believe him, why a nation saturated with politics, chronically disappointed by its leaders, and tired of promises can, actually, put some faith in him."
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