If Mitt Romney had to boil down his chief critique of President Obama’s first term in office, it would be something like this: “Obama has had three years to turn the economy around, and he hasn’t done it.” He used nearly those exact words in New Hampshire on Friday morning, when he responded to new uninspiring jobs data from June, when private sector job growth lagged and the unemployment rate stayed stubbornly at 8.2 percent. “The president’s policies have clearly not been successful,” Romney said.
He also hasn’t bought Obama’s usual retort, that the economy had lost as many as 775,000 jobs each month when he took office, and that he shouldn’t be blamed for that period. “Maybe he’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s the Republicans,’” Romney said at a campaign stop in Wisconsin last month, “but you know…he gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy.”
However, Romney appears to have undercut his own critique. Not now, but back in 2006, when Romney was defending his own economic record as governor of Massachusetts. The statements were released on Thursday night in a video by American Bridge, a liberal political action committee that does opposition research. At a press conference in the statehouse in Boston, here’s what Romney said:
“I came in and the jobs had been just falling, like off a cliff. I came in and they kept falling for 11 months and then we turned around and we’re coming back,” Romney said. “And that’s progress. And if you’re going to suggest to me that somehow the day I got elected, somehow jobs should immediately turn around. Why, that would be silly. It takes a while to get things turned around. We were in a recession, we were losing jobs every month, we’ve turned around.”
It’s true that the argument isn’t quite so simple. An executive is only peripherally able to control job-creation, and Romney’s and Obama’s governing strategies are indeed different. But the result of boiling down his attack on Obama to a simple sound bite may not be as effective as his campaign once hoped. Rather than create a contrast of ideas and arguments, Romney, lately, has found himself with more and more in common with the president.