1. Create 12 million jobs in four years. Romney sets a modest bar with this oft-heard pledge; economists think about that many jobs or more will be created regardless of the outcome Tuesday. To add 12 million, the workforce would have to grow by an average of 250,000 a month, a reasonable prospect when there is no recession. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month.
2. "I'm not going to raise taxes on anyone," a pledge also rendered as, "I will not raise taxes on the middle class." Romney promises not only to keep the Bush tax cuts for all but to bring down rates a further 20 percent. He'd also eliminate the capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut the corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Although the promised cuts are clear enough, just how he would pay for them is a mystery. He's talked about reducing some deductions and exemptions in the tax code but won't say which.
3. Repeal Obama's health care law, his clarion call since the GOP primaries. Rolling back the massive overhaul, now that it has had more than two years to sprout roots, could be a massive undertaking of its own. Some of his promises in this area are showmanship, such as his pledge to issue waivers from the law to all 50 states on the first day of his presidency. Many states don't want out of the law, and it can't be dismantled with the mere stroke of his pen anyway. In any event, the law's repeal is one big promise he will be judged on, especially by the tea party activists who were suspicious early on about his conservative credentials.
4. Balance the budget by 2020. Vital specifics are lacking from this pledge, such as which big federal programs he'd cut and how else he would save money when also wants to cut taxes, increase military spending and restore more than $700 billion in Medicare cuts over 10 years.
5. "We will achieve North American energy independence by 2020." By that, he means the U.S. would have its energy needs completely met by its own resources and those of Canada and Mexico. As with Obama's pledge to cut oil imports by half, Romney's promise has become conceivable — if still a steep climb — thanks to technology and market forces that have brought vast reserves of natural gas, along with other energy sources, within reach.
6. Quickly approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, delayed by Obama because of environmental concerns, as part of the push for more energy supply.
7. Label China a currency manipulator. Central to Romney's pledge to get tougher with unfair trade practices. The move would set the stage for broad trade penalties and could lead to a trade war between the two huge economies.
8. Overhaul immigration laws. The features of Romney's plan are foggier than Obama's, but he favors a strengthened system of tracking illegal immigrants through their U.S. employers, supports completion of the U.S.-Mexico border fence and opposes any broad-based move to establish a path to citizenship except for those who served in the armed forces. He promises to achieve this overhaul before the two-year work permits granted by Obama expire, and he would honor those in the meantime. Promises those who study legally in the U.S. that "if you get an advanced degree here, we want you to stay here— so we will staple a green card to your diploma."
9. Protect Medicare for those in or near retirement, change it for future retirees. Starting in 2022, retirees could choose to buy their own health insurance, with voucher-like payments from the government, or stay with traditional Medicare. Questions persist about whether the payments would be sufficient and whether traditional Medicare would remain as comprehensive as now.
10. Turn Medicaid over to the states with block grants, a huge change to a major program. Sure to cause a donnybrook in Congress — and an important step for conservatives who want states overall to gain more authority and flexibility from Washington.
11. Seek freer trade with Latin America and other parts of the world, a leading element of Romney's job-creation pledge.
12. Day One alone: "Start the process of repealing Obamacare" with waivers, cut off federal money for Planned Parenthood and the U.N. Population Fund, reinstate the policy banning federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information, designate China a currency manipulator, "reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent life," take "bold action" to create jobs, and — perhaps after lunch?— "do everything in my power to end these days of drift and disappointment."
EDITOR'S NOTE _ An occasional look at promises of the presidential candidates