No state had a bigger stake in Wednesday's presidential debate than Nevada. No other state has suffered more economic hardship over the past five years. No state has a greater need for jobs than Nevada, which leads the nation with a real unemployment rate of at least 22 percent. No state will benefit more from a real economic recovery.
Nevada is one of a handful of swing states that will decide which man wins the White House one month from now. But Nevadans' impressions of Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have been driven largely by negative advertising and stump speeches. Wednesday's debate marked the first time voters saw the men present, defend and contrast their ideas for how to grow the American economy and manage the executive branch of the federal government. Which man's leadership is more likely to spur investment in businesses and encourage companies to hire?
On Wednesday night, Nevadans watched Mr. Romney trounce the president. The evidence Mr. Romney systematically laid out exposed how the president's top-down interventions have virtually paralyzed our economy - and he presented a solution.
Nevadans need a president with a vision and political philosophy capable of restoring ingenuity, competition and excellence to our education and health care systems, of paring back the budget deficit and the explosive growth of our debt, of keeping energy affordable, of bringing back jobs and prosperity not just here, but in every American city with residents who want enough economic security to be able to take a Las Vegas vacation.
The answer is pro-growth tax and regulatory reform. The answer is tax and regulatory certainty for businesses. The answer is growing our way out of the budget deficit with a broader, simpler tax base and reduced rates and deductions for all - especially the risk-taker, the job creator and the entrepreneur. More jobs equals more taxpayers.
Mr. Obama has a much different recipe for lifting the middle class: higher taxes on investors, job creators and small businesses; borrowing money to fund more public-sector jobs and government construction projects; borrowing money to fund more green energy enterprises and projects, which make electricity more expensive, while limiting the oil and coal industries; and pushing more young people to seek a debt-funded college education when they have little hope of landing a job upon graduation.
The suggestion that tax increases and higher energy prices will lift the middle class defies logic. But it's not terribly surprising coming from an administration that's completely lacking in business experience and openly hostile to free-market capitalism. This summer, the president famously said "the private sector is doing fine," and to business owners: "You didn't build that."
In a second Obama term, the national debt would soar past $20 trillion. And Mr. Obama has no plan to address the crushing future costs of Medicare and Social Security.
Mr. Obama has never been the uniting agent of change he promised to be. His two biggest initiatives, the economic stimulus and his health care reform law, were rushed through a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote, and the electorate responded in 2010 by giving Republicans control of the House. Instead of moving to the center, as President Bill Clinton did after the 1994 Republican Revolution, Mr. Obama has dug in his heels. He shares the blame for Washington's gridlock.
If he won't change course, the country won't, either.
Mr. Romney, however, is a Republican who was elected governor of heavily Democratic Massachusetts. He had to work with Democrats to get things done. His leadership and ability to bring people together saved the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. As a businessman, his management skills turned failing companies into profitable ones. Mr. Romney vows to do that, again, in Washington.
If we are to avoid a lost decade and a future calamity created by inaction on entitlements and government growth, this nation needs a team of turnaround experts. Mr. Romney has promised to create a Cabinet of private-sector leaders focused on strengthening the country's business climate and making it more competitive. He and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, have dared to put forward ideas to preserve Medicare for current beneficiaries and reform it for future recipients, and they vow to work with Congress to prevent the program's collapse.
Mr. Romney is a fine family man who donates millions of dollars to his church and charity every year. There is not a whiff of scandal about him. This is why his opponents have tried to turn his very successes against him. It's all they have.
Early voting in Nevada begins Oct. 20. Election Day is Nov. 6. Over the last few weeks of this campaign, Nevadans must ask themselves which candidate will embrace policies that will put the people of this state back to work, creating the jobs that lift our incomes, our home values and our hope.
The choice is clear. Only Mitt Romney has the principles and experience needed to put America back on the road to prosperity. The Review-Journal endorses Mitt Romney for president of the United States.