Mitt Romney's failure to create jobs in Massachusetts during his one term is becoming an increasingly important point in the 2012 campaign, with the Republican campaign struggling to think of an excuse, and President Obama's re-election team eager to shine a spotlight on Romney's record.
Indeed, Obama's campaign released this new ad this morning, slamming the former governor's failures on what's supposed to be his top issue.
This is not, by the way, just some web video -- the ad will run in Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as part of a "significant" ad buy.
And what does Team Romney have to say in response? Well, it's a funny story, actually.
Romney has been running for president pretty much non-stop for six years. He and his aides have, in other words, had a very long time to come up with compelling explanations for all of the shortcomings in Romney's record.
With that in mind, Romney's staffers had to know that when they appeared on the Sunday shows yesterday, they'd hear questions about Massachusetts being 47th out of 50 states in job creation during Romney's tenure. And what was their explanation? Romney inherited a bad situation, and when he left, things were marginally better.
Seriously, that's their defense.
Eric Fehrnstrom told ABC, "Can I just say, on the jobs question, because this comes up repeatedly that Massachusetts was 47 out of 50 in terms of jobs growth. Actually, when Mitt Romney arrived, Massachusetts was an economic basket house." Kevin Madden, naturally, took the same line on "Meet the Press." On Fox News, Ed Gillespie went so far as to suggest the job losses in Romney's first year shouldn't be held against him.
This comes on the heels of Fehrnstrom arguing 10 days ago that Romney inherited a "recession" and an economy that was "losing thousands of jobs every month" in 2002, and a Romney campaign press release last week that argued, in all seriousness, "Governor Romney inherited an economy that was losing jobs each month and left office with an economy that was adding jobs each month."
David Axelrod's response seemed wholly appropriate given the circumstances: "They're kidding, right?"
Look, this isn't complicated. Romney is trying to create a standard for success that only he's allowed to use. After all, what's President Obama's defense on the economy? He inherited a disaster but helped turn things around. After one term, conditions weren't excellent, but they showed clear improvement after four years. An economy that was losing jobs was, finally, adding jobs.
And what's Romney's defense of his jobs record in Massachusetts? He inherited a mess but helped turn things around. After one term, conditions weren't excellent, but they showed clear improvement after four years. An economy that was losing jobs was, finally, adding jobs.
Can Romney have it both ways? If Romney's to be congratulated for inheriting an economy that was struggling but then turning things around a little, by that identical standard, he ought to be patting Obama on the back for a job well done. Indeed, the Romney campaign talking points practically sound like an Obama endorsement.
What's more, this isn't some tangential point in 2012 -- it's the central argument of the entire presidential campaign.