What Mitt Romney Must Do to Win

Mitt Romney is now almost certain to win a commanding victory tonight night in the Florida primary – most likely by double digits.

But he has a lot of work to do if he is to be as competitive in the general election against President Obama as he and his supporters would like him to be come November.

Current polling in Florida indicates that President Obama’s position is actually improving vis-à-vis Romney.

The latest NBC News/Marist poll  shows President Obama  leading the former Governor by eight points (49%-41%) among registered Florida voters, while the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States survey shows the President  and Mr. Romney effectively tied (47%-48%) – notwithstanding the President’s low rating in swing states.

Meanwhile, the USA TODAY/Gallup Swing States survey suggests that Obama’s position is strengthening in swing states, with his approval rating on the rise from the low-mid forties to the mid-high forties.

All of this – not to mention the President’s State of the Union in which he touched upon a number of highly popular themes — augers badly for Governor Romney’s chances come November.

What then does Governor Romney need to do?

First and foremost, Mr. Romney needs to articulate a positive message for why he should be President.

It is simply not enough to say that he supports free markets, lower taxes, and lack of regulation, he needs to put forth some sort of overarching and comprehensive plan. Not a 59 point plan,  but a plan to get America moving again.

Second, if this election is going to be – as Ezra Klein has suggested — a referendum on carried interest and private equity, Mr. Romney will lose in the absence of an explanation – and  a better one than anything he has offered to date — for what he has done at Bain Capital

Consequently, it will be absolutely necessary for him to speak out against the tax break on carried interest.   Carried interest – which refers to the share of profits that partners in private equity firms, hedge funds and real estate developments receive as most of their compensation — is taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rate rather than at ordinary income rates.

Make no mistake, Governor Romney has done nothing wrong, and he may as the New York Times has suggested, in fact overpaid his taxes.

But it is simply unsustainable and indefensible given the current political and economic climate for him to argue that because of the carried interest tax rate,  he should pay an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent on income of $21.6 million in 2010 rather than the 35% top marginal tax rate.

He need not — and should not — adopt the Buffet rule as President Obama has and call for a flat 30% tax rate for anyone earning over one million dollars.

But he does need some reasonable tax policy — ideally involving some of the proposals put forth in the Bowles Simpson plan such as taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income, while significantly reducing corporate and personal income tax rates. .

Looking ahead, it appears that Governor Romney will win the GOP nomination – having overcome a huge hurdle by winning the Florida Primary.

But make no mistake; significant challenges still lie ahead for the former Governor, and Mr. Romney has a lot of work to do going forward, if he is going to be as fully competitive as he and his supporters would like him to be come November