I think Team Romney might well agree that tax cuts are a spent political force outside of Republican primaries. The 1980s are a long time ago to many Americans. The more recent economic episodes in the public mind are the booming 1990s when Clinton raised taxes and the 2000s when Bush cut taxes. The tax cut brand might be tarnished, even though such a perception reflects a total misreading of recent economic history.
Which is too bad. America desperately needs pro-growth tax reform to create jobs, raise incomes, and better handle the debt. In fact, we need to completely replace the income tax.
I would offer two pieces of advice: a) Romney should spend some time talking about why lower tax rates boost growth, and b) Romney should spend some time talking about why the Obama spending agenda would result in Carter-era tax rates.In Virginia we've been seeing a Romney ad that touts his plan for a "twenty percent tax cut for the middle class," and it does rub me the wrong way. It feels like the wrong thing for the moment, like a message from 1998. "You say we're drowning in debt, but you want to cut taxes?" I hear a politician promising goodies, not a serious policy proposal.
Similarly, I don't agree with Pethokoukis's advice to talk about the relationship between lower taxes and growth. The economics might be correct, but this doesn't feel like the right time to make the case. It brings to mind Obama's line that Republicans think tax cuts are the solution to everything.
I'd prefer a message that first and foremost says "We're going to get government spending under control," and then promises tax reform, with maybe lower rates and fewer deductions. But of course, that might require Romney to get specific about his tax plan, which so far he's studiously avoided doing.