WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney has built his candidacy for president on his experience in the private sector, constantly hailing his management skills as central to his approach to tackling the nation's problems. But on the morning of the first presidential debate, former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and conservative pundit Bill Kristol questioned that logic, arguing that the government is not a business.
"I think his attitude [toward the presidency] would be efficiency," Huntsman said of Romney at a Brookings Institution panel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. "'I'm going to come in and look at running the government like a business,' which sometimes isn't the right answer, because the government isn't a business.”
"I haven't seen a good example yet of a businessperson come into government and make it run like a business," he continued. "We forget that the cultures are very different, and I think the presumed outcomes are different as well."
Kristol, a vocal critic of Romney and his campaign, agreed with Huntsman's assessment, stating that the Republican presidential candidate's repeated touting of his leadership at Bain Capital and of organizing committee of the 2002 Olympic Games aren't comparable to leading a country.
"He has a thin resume for a presidential candidate," Kristol said. "He's a one-term governor in an atypical state ... He didn't really run on much of an agenda to change things for Massachusetts."
The Weekly Standard editor stated that although Romney was a "pretty good" governor, his single greatest achievement was passing the Massachusetts health care law, which is now a major issue of contention within his own party. His lack of a true policy agenda, Kristol continued, reflects in the campaign Romney has chosen to run as he pursues the nation's highest office.
"[It's] not what I would have recommended to Gov. Romney. He's running a safe, 'let's try to have a referendum on the economy' campaign," Kristol said, adding that the Romney campaign's recent tactics are built on making the pessimistic case to voters that, "if you reelect Obama, the next four years will not be better than the last four years."
But both Kristol and Huntsman were quick to point out that President Barack Obama in his first term didn't exhibit an ability to deal with Congress, which, according to Huntsman, is an area where Romney might be effectively able to use negotiating skills he honed during his business career.
"He's done a lot of deals, done a lot of transactions," Huntsman said. "That transactional mindset or philosophy will carry over if he becomes president toward the legislature."
Many have questioned whether Obama, in a second term, can overcome the challenges he has faced since the 2010 midterm elections in pushing legislation through Congress. But Kristol said if Obama wins in November, it will mark the beginning of an entirely new chapter.
"I think Republicans are underestimating how strong Obama will be in a second term," Kristol said. "[House Speaker John] Boehner will feel obliged to deal with Obama in 2013 if Romney has lost."
Former Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who also sat on the panel, added that Obama would seek to define his legacy in a second term and be more engaged in order to get things done.
"He'll have learned, he'll reach out," Gordon said. "He'll do a much better job of working with Congress."
Asked by The Huffington Post what Romney needs to do on the night of the first debate after a rough couple of weeks that have seen him slipping in the polls, Huntsman called for the Republican presidential nominee to demonstrate sincerity.
"It helps when you look into the camera and you speak from the heart in ways that allow the voters to feel the sincerity and the commitment to the issues around jobs and economic growth, which I think must happen before anything else," Huntsman said, citing former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month as an example. "No BS, no fluff, no hyperbole -- just tell us where you can take us."
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