The crucial question in this year’s presidential election is this: Who will make the economy better, quickly, and in ways that enhance the nation’s long-term strength and vitality?

The answer: Mitt Romney.

No one disputes that Barack Obama inherited an economic disaster, but instead of focusing on solving it, he spent his political capital ramming ObamaCare into law without bipartisan support. He chose to use his party’s control of both houses of Congress to advance a long-term liberal goal, despite lack of agreement from across the aisle and across the nation.

At a time when existing entitlements threaten to overwhelm us, Obama chose to add a massive new one. ObamaCare asked the right questions but it came up with the wrong answers, and the process revealed a president more ideological than practical.

By contrast, Romney’s successes reveal a man focused on results and capable of building consensus. His achievements in business demonstrate that he understands how free enterprise works and jobs are created. As a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature, he showed the ability to work with the opposition. In bringing the Olympics back to fiscal health, he triumphed in the nonprofit world.

The philosophical divide between the two candidates is stark, with Obama believing things get better with more government involvement, while Romney favors the private sector. While both are critical, the pendulum has swung too far in the government’s direction, and Romney can be expected to help moderate that movement.

Obama’s most critical failing has been on the jobs front, where the unemployment rate has stayed far too high for far too long. Even when the rate has fallen slightly, the cause has been discouraged workers giving up and dropping out, rather than meaningful job creation. Because he believes government is the solution, Obama failed to address the ways government regulations and policies hamper economic recovery and job creation. Even his own party overwhelmingly rejected his budget proposal. The resulting uncertainty left businesses and investors (read job-creators) reluctant to take chances.

On foreign policy, Obama wisely matured beyond some of the policies he endorsed as a candidate, such as closing Guantanamo and moving terrorist trials to civilian courts. The surge in Afghanistan and the use of drones have been effective. Romney is on target, though, in criticizing plans to shrink the military.

Most disturbing in Obama’s first term has been his descent into the language of class warfare, blaming the rich who don’t pay their “fair share” instead of facing the fact that we’ve constructed an entitlement society we can’t afford. The president ignored the recommendations of his own budget commission, and the nation now faces a year-end financial cliff of tax increases and spending cuts.

Ironically, Obama’s failure to face fiscal reality threatens the very people he seeks to help. A safety net is critical — along with many other public priorities — but we can’t maintain them without economic growth.

To restore a vibrant economy and create jobs, whoever is president needs to lead the way in dealing with the nation’s explosive debt, impossible entitlement promises and destructive tax code. Vilifying the rich and promising too much to everyone else won’t get us there.

Romney has demonstrated the ability to deal across the aisle to solve problems and advance aspirations. He understands the free enterprise system that has been the engine of prosperity, making this nation a magnet for people the world over. Let’s send him to Washington.