* Trailing Perry in early polls, Romney aims for center
* Picking Bush aides who bring controversy
* Romney pins hopes on 'winnability'
(Adds response from Obama campaign)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Sept 6 Presidential hopeful Mitt
Romney aimed squarely at the Republican center as he launched
his economic program on Tuesday, proposing spending cuts and
lower taxes and picking well-known party figures as advisers.
The former Massachusetts governor unveiled a 59-point
economic plan in a speech in Nevada, promising to cut corporate
taxes, reduce federal regulations and get tough with China two
days before Democratic President Barack Obama makes a major
speech on the U.S. economy and jobs.
Romney also named two top aides of former President George
W. Bush to his four-member economic team: Glenn Hubbard,
chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to
2003, and his successor, Gregory Mankiw.
Romney's plan reflects Republican Party orthodoxy, with an
emphasis on cutting taxes and eliminating regulations. He would
push for free trade agreements and promote domestic energy
production, weaken labor unions, boost worker training, and
seek a constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
"High taxes and regulations -- that's basically a mantra
for the Republican Party," said David Madland, director of the
American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress
Action Fund. "This is the heart of the Republican Party."
Romney made bold promises for his 160-page economic
program. He said it would grow the U.S. economy at 4 percent
per year, each of his first four years in office, and add 11.5
million new jobs.
Despite addressing a weekend rally held by the Tea Party,
Romney is distancing himself from candidates who lean farther
toward the right, including his main rivals, Texas Governor
Rick Perry and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
"He's trying to go for the conservative center," said
Julian Zelizer, a politics expert at Princeton University.
Republican primary voters will focus on two things -- one
is whether they like a candidate's views, but the second is
whether he or she can be elected, Zelizer noted.
Romney stands a better chance than Perry or Bachmann of
beating Obama, polls show.
"They are not candidates who are going to be the most solid
in terms of 'winnability,'" Zelizer said. "That second question
(can he beat Obama?) is going to loom large because the anger
toward Obama is so intense."
BASHING "CHEATER" CHINA
Romney said he would submit five bills on the economy on
his first day in office, including an act implementing
long-delayed free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and
He also promised to issue five executive orders on his
first day, including ordering countervailing duties on Chinese
imports if China does not move quickly to float its currency.
"I'll clamp down on the cheaters, and China is the worst
example of that. They have manipulated their currency to make
their products artificially inexpensive," he said. "... And I
will label China as it is, a currency manipulator and I will go
after them for stealing our intellectual property."
Romney was the early leader in the race for the Republican
nomination to challenge Obama's bid for re-election next year,
but has fallen behind Perry in recent polls. Seeking to regain
that lost ground, Romney has stressed his record in private
business as co-founder of private equity firm Bain Capital.
Obama's job approval ratings have plunged as the country
has grappled with a sputtering economy and a 9.1-percent
Obama's campaign said Romney's plan would enrich
corporations at the expense of the middle class.
"Governor Romney repackaged the same old policies that
helped create the economic crisis: boosting oil company profits
and allowing Wall Street to write its own rules, more tax
breaks for large corporations and more tax cuts for the
wealthiest while working Americans are forced to carry a
greater burden," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.
Economists said it was difficult to assess whether Romney's
plan would do what he says, when U.S. consumer confidence is
weak, depressing demand.
"Having 59 ideas is way too many," said Stephen Fuller of
George Mason University. "What we need is two or three really
good ideas that resonate, not politically, but look realistic
to consumers, so they are going to feel confident."
Polls released on Tuesday showed Americans are unhappy with
Obama's handling of the economy and jobs. An NBC News/Wall
Street Journal poll showed Obama's job approval rating at a low
of 44 percent. An ABC News/Washington Post poll showed six in
10 Americans rated Obama's performance on the economy and jobs
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)