For the last few months, Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has had quite a bit of success driving the major political discussions of the day. Team Romney says Hilary Rosen's comments matter, so for a short while, the political world obsesses over Hilary Rosen. They say Cory Booker's comments matter, so for a short while, the political world obsesses over Cory Booker. They say Solyndra matters, so for a short while, the political world obsesses over Solyndra.
This week, President Obama's campaign wants to know if they can work the refs, too.
At issue is a development we discussed yesterday: the Romney camp prefers a double standard when it comes to the candidates' records on jobs. When evaluating Romney's one term as governor, his campaign argues, what matters is that the governor inherited a recession. The state showed marginal improvements after four years, they now argue, moving from an economy that was losing jobs into one that was adding jobs. Can Obama use the identical standard? Of course not.
In one of the most jaw-dropping quotes of the year, Ed Gillespie went so far as to argue on Sunday that Romney's entire first year as governor shouldn't count. Asked about the fact that Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation during Romney's tenure, Gillespie complained, "[Democrats are] averaging out over the four years. So, they are bringing down the gains of his fourth year in office, which shows the real impact of his policies, and diluting it with the first year in office."
What's breathtaking about this, of course, is the double standard. It matters that Romney inherited a recession, but it doesn't matter that Obama inherited the worst global crisis since the Great Depression. It matters that Massachusetts was adding jobs after Romney's one term, but it doesn't matter that America is adding jobs after Obama's one term. Romney's first year doesn't count, but Obama's first year does count. Creating averages based on four-year totals is wrong when it's applied to Romney, but necessary when it's applied to Obama.
Even by the standards of the Romney campaign, this is as shameless as it is ridiculous.
For Obama's team, the apparent goal is to find a way to make the media care.
The effort began in earnest yesterday.
President Obama's senior campaign adviser, David Axelrod, is crying foul over the Romney campaign's comparison of the two presidential contender's economic records, accusing the Romney campaign of "breathtaking hypocrisy" by employing a double standard.
"It's breathtaking hypocrisy for them to say, 'you really can't include [Romney's] first year [as governor of Massachusetts] because he took over at a tough time,' " Axelrod said in a conference call on Monday. "That's not the standard by which Gov. Romney has held this president ... the question is, are they kidding, and do they expect people to take this seriously?"
This effort continues today, with the Stephanie Cutter video featured above.
The question is whether the political world will care about this, the same way it cared about Hilary Rosen and Cory Booker. That's exceedingly unlikely, but in the interest of fairness and accuracy in covering the 2012 race, the Obama campaign can at least hope that they've gotten reporters attention on this point for the months ahead. If so, and the candidates are held to one standard instead of two, it has the potential to change the way the central issue of the year is understood by the public.