NEW HAMPSHIRE — Mitt Romney doubled down in Saturday night’s debate on his claim that he created a 100,000 jobs while in the private sector and in the process contradicted recent remarks on the subject from his own campaign spokesperson.
Under persistent questioning from debate moderators, Romney denied that the 100,000 figure can only be reached if one does not count layoffs and other job losses he was responsible for during his time at the corporate management company, Bain Capital.
The talking point, a regular on the campaign trail for Romney, has been well-dissected in recent days. As Brian Beutler wrote last week,
Romney makes two different, but implicitly entwined claims: That while working in corporate management he created over 100,000 jobs and that — by comparison — Obama his presided over millions of job losses.
This is a false juxtaposition, based on two false claims. And so far, precious few reporters have pressed Romney or his campaign about it.
That changed big time Saturday when debate moderator George Stephanopolous asked Romney to justify the claim early in the debate. Here’s the question:
There have been questions about that caluclation of the 100,000 jobs, so if you could explain a little more, I’ve read some analysts who look at it and say that you’re counting the jobs that were created, but not the jobs that were taken away. Is that accurate?
Here’s where things get a little complicated. Last week, Romney advisor Eric Ferhnstrom told the Washington Post Romney’s claim that he created 100,000 jobs “stems from the growth in jobs from three companies that Romney helped to start or grow while at Bain Capital: Staples (a gain of 89,000 jobs), The Sports Authority (15,000 jobs), and Domino’s (7,900 jobs).”
“This tally obviously does not include job losses from other companies with which Bain Capital was involved — and are based on current employment figures, not the period when Romney worked at Bain,” the Post wrote.
On the debate stage tonight, Romney said something totally different:
It includes the net of both. I’m a good enough numbers guy to make sure I got both sides of that. The simple ones, some of the biggest, for instance, there’s a steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana. Thousands of jobs there. Bright Horizons Childrens Centers, Sports Authority, about 15,000 jobs there. Staples alone, 90,000 employees. That’s a business we helped start from the ground up.
So Romney’s adviser told the Post the the number comes from the jobs that exist at the companies now, not the jobs that were created specifically while he was at Bain, and that they didn’t take into account the other side of the ledger. But on stage Romney said the opposite: that he actually did create 100,000 net jobs in total while at Bain, even factoring in Bain’s layoffs.
Democrats noticed the difference. While the debate was still underway, the DNC pushed out a release to reporters under the subject line, “Romney’s so-called job creation record at Bain continues to evolve.” Separately, the Associated Press went up with a fact-check article moments after the debate concluded.
So this one is going to stick around.
Update: TPM asked Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom about the seeming contradiction between his and Romney’s assessment of the 100k jobs figure. He said that it holds up regardless of whether it includes layoffs at other companies.
“The Bain record has been scrutinized extensively going back to 1994 when Mitt Romney first ran for office,” he said. “You just look at Bain’s startups like Staples, Sports Authority, Bright Horizons, you come up with a jobs figure in excess of 100,000. Now there’s about five or six companies that get written about endlessly that experienced layoffs. Go ahead and deduct those from the number, you still come up with over 100,000 jobs.”
Asked whether the campaign would provide revised numbers that demonstrate that net job gains were in excess of 100,000 even with layoffs included, Fehrnstrom responded, “I just gave you my analysis.”
Benjy Sarlin was at Saturday’s debate. Evan McMorris-Santoro contributed to this article from DC.