“Diluting The Facts”: Critique Of Obama Jobs Record Puts Romney In A Bind
If there’s one thing Mitt Romney cannot stand, it’s when President Obama blames the economic situation he inherited from former president George W. Bush for the country’s current gloomy challenges.
“What he’s very good at is finding other people to blame,” Mr. Romney said at a fund-raiser in San Diego recently. At an event in Michigan, he mocked Mr. Obama for trying to evade responsibility for the economy by blaming “his predecessor, the Congress, the one percent, oil companies, and A.T.M.s.”
So it was interesting to hear Mr. Romney’s own aides over the weekend try to explain some of the less flattering statistics from Mr. Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts.
“He inherited a $3-billion projected deficit,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mr. Romney, explained on Fox News Sunday.
Mr. Gillespie said it was unfair to judge Mr. Romney’s record on job creation by including all four years of his tenure. He said the statistic that Mr. Romney was 47th in job creation during his time in office was calculated by “diluting it with the first year in office, when he came into office, and it was 50th in job creation.”
Essentially, he was arguing that Mr. Romney’s first year, in 2003, shouldn’t be counted.
Eric Fehrnstrom, another top aide to Mr. Romney, also blamed the situation that the governor inherited — paradoxically, from Republican governors who occupied the Statehouse for the previous 12 years.
“When Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “If you throw D.C. into the mix, we were 51 out of 51.”
Mr. Obama’s team was incredulous. On a conference call with reporters, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president’s campaign, accused Mr. Romney’s campaign of “breathtaking hypocrisy” for using the same excuse that their candidate has been hammering the president for.
“Their answer to all of this was. ‘Well you really can’t include his first year because you know he inherited a really tough economic situation,’ ” Mr. Axelrod said. “They’ve painted themselves into a corner here. And now that double standard is clear and they’re going to have to explain it to the American people.”
In fact, the most serious attacks from Mr. Romney involve exactly the kind of focus on Mr. Obama’s first year in office that the Republican advisers were trying to avoid.
Mr. Romney frequently says that Mr. Obama has presided over an economy that has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. In a recent news release, the Republican campaign said, “Under President Obama, the nation has lost 552,000 jobs.”
But that statistic includes Mr. Obama’s first year in office, and especially the months of February, March and April, when monthly job losses from the economic collapse were at 700,000 or higher.
Just ignoring February of 2009, before any of Mr. Obama’s policies — including the economic stimulus — had been put into place, would wipe away all 552,000 lost jobs, giving the president a record of creating 172,000 jobs.
If Mr. Romney’s team were to ignore Mr. Obama’s first year in office — as Mr. Gillespie suggested should be done for Mr. Romney’s first year as governor — then the president would have added about 3.7 million jobs to the economy.
Of course, Mr. Romney’s campaign is unlikely to change its rhetoric or strategy. His bid for the White House depends on the idea that Mr. Obama has made the economy worse. Because the country has been adding jobs for nearly two years, Mr. Romney’s argument depends on the steep job losses in Mr. Obama’s first year in office.
But the campaign does need to find a way to defend Mr. Romney’s record as governor against the criticism that the state lagged behind the rest of the country in job creation while he was in office.
Mr. Obama’s campaign is making that charge aggressively. Mr. Axelrod said on Monday that the campaign is spending about $10 million on a television ad that tries to undermine Mr. Romney’s gubernatorial record. The ad is running in nine battleground states.
“When Mitt Romney was governor, Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs,” the narrator in the ad says. “And fell to
47th in job creation. Fourth from the bottom.”
Both campaigns face the same conundrum: their candidate governed in periods following economic slowdowns that weigh down the statistics that might otherwise look rosier.
On Fox News Sunday, Mr. Fehrnstrom urged viewers to look at how Mr. Romney fared at the end of his term, when the economy had fired back up again. By that measure, he said, Massachusetts was not 47th in job creation.
“By the time Mitt Romney left four years later, we were in the middle of the pack,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “We were 30th in the nation in terms of job growth. That’s the trend line that you want to see.”
By: Michael Shear, The New York Times, June 5, 2012
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