During last night's Republican presidential debate (transcript), Mitt Romney spent the bulk of his time attacking President Obama, specifically on the economy. But in shining the spotlight on the economy (he even tsk-tsked moderator John King for asking about DADT when "we should be talking about jobs and the economy"), Romney confirmed that his own economic plan is at best, woefully undeveloped and at worst, completely incomprehensible. Some highlights:
ROMNEY: I believe we will not raise the debt ceiling unless the president finally, finally is willing to be a leader on issues that the American people care about. And the number one issue that relates to that debt ceiling is whether the government is going to keep on spending money they don't have.
And the American people and Congress and every person elected in Washington has to understand we want to see a president finally lay out plans for reining in the excesses of government.
You've heard on here a whole series of ideas about entitlements. And that's about 60 percent of federal spends. That's a big piece. That's a big chunk. Ideas from all these people up here.
Where are the president's ideas?
Each person has different ideas here. We can try them and try different ideas in different states and different programs at the federal level.
But why isn't the president leading? He isn't leading on balancing our budget and he's not leading on jobs. He's failed the American people both in job creation and the scale the government.
Romney's attack on President Obama's "lack of ideas" doesn't really resonate with headlines like the one pictured above from the president's trip to North Carolina this week. You can read about some of the president's ideas on creating one million new jobs here. But let's take a closer look at Romney's ideas:
ROMNEY: Look, Tim has the right instincts, which is he recognizes that what this president has done has slowed the economy. He didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer. And now we have more chronic long-term employment than this country has ever seen before, 20 million people out of work, stopped looking for work, or in part-time jobs that need full-time jobs. We've got housing prices continuing to decline, and we have foreclosures at record levels.
This president has failed. And he's failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing. And instead of doing that, he delegated the stimulus to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and then he did what he wanted to do: card-check, cap-and-trade, Obamacare, reregulation.
I spent my life in the private sector, 25 years.
KING: All right.
ROMNEY: And as I went around the world -- this is an important topic -- I went around the world...
KING: We'll have a lot of time on the topic. We just -- we won't get through this...
ROMNEY: You can tell how -- how to get jobs going in this country, and President Obama has done it wrong. And the ideas Tim described, those are in the right wheelhouse.
OK, so he thinks Tim Pawlenty's highly-ridiculed "Google Test" is "in the right wheelhouse." But can Romney get any more specific? I thought Republicans were about individual responsibility. Why isn't Romney taking the responsibility to devise an economic plan of his own?
Heading over to Romney's website, we see little more to indicate that Romney has any real, detailed and viable job-creation ideas beyond standard GOP talking points.
On the one hand, while at the debate Romney made clear his philosophy that government "shouldn't try to guide this economy," on his website he insists that "government must be a partner" in securing America's energy independence to create clean energy jobs. And he proposes "giv[ing] workers the resources and responsibility to develop valuable skills and make the transition to new types of work."
Moreover, while at the debate Romney insisted that "we can't afford more federal spending," Romney has yet to even hint at the type of cuts he thinks are needed to do what he demands of President Obama -- balance the budget.
He did hint today, however, that he thinks he has the nomination and probably the general election all locked up:
Romney felt confident enough, in chatting with the owner of a local hardware store, to promise a return visit in four years, when "I'll probably have Secret Service with me."
For someone who doesn't have an economic plan beyond attacking President Obama for his, that's a pretty bold statement.
Romney's lucky that yesterday's debate featured a string of hapless candidates who were too timid to call him out on his lack of detailed jobs plan. Clearly, he's enjoying his frontrunner status. Let's see if he'll enjoy the increased policy scrutiny that comes with it over the course of the campaign.