Rick Santorum offered a fantastical explanation Friday morning for why the unemployment rate decreased in December: “optimism that Republicans will take the White House.” Though the comment was delivered half-jokingly, it’s indicative of the bind Republican candidates find themselves in.
Across the board, Republican candidates’ campaigns depend on painting President Obama as a job killer. That narrative runs contrary to news this morning that the country saw 200,000 jobs created in December, bringing unemployment down from 8.6% to 8.5% — the lowest it’s been in 3 years. Admitting that Obama has, slowly but surely, presided over the creation of 1.9 million private-sector jobs in 2011 is something the Republican presidential candidates are not about to do.
Santorum isn’t alone in denying Obama any credit for the past year’s job creation. Newt Gingrich issued a statement on the new numbers without mentioning that the rate went down or that jobs were added.
“Three full years into the Obama presidency, and there are still 1.7 million fewer Americans going to work today than there were on Obama’s Inauguration day.
“Today’s new December unemployment figure doesn’t capture the full scale of the tragedy: almost 24 million Americans still unemployed, working part-time for economic reasons, or discouraged from looking for work.
“The Obama experiment has failed, and it is time to look to proven solutions that have successfully empowered job-creators in the past…”
Newt’s remarks read as if the unemployment rate just went up. But more importantly, they read as if our current unemployment crisis began on the inauguration day in 2009, whereas it had in fact been hemorrhaging jobs for months.
To his credit, Mitt Romney acknowledged that Friday’s report was positive, but took aim at Obama for creating the jobs crisis in the first place. “Of course it is good news fewer Americans are out of work,” Romney’s statement conceded, “but thirty-five consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent is no cause for celebration. Under President Obama, we have lost 1.7 million jobs - America deserves better. Eventually our economy will recover, America always does. But President Obama’s policies have slowed the recovery and created misery for 24 million Americans who are unemployed, or stuck in part-time jobs when what they really want is full-time work. As President, I will refuse to accept high unemployment as the ‘new normal’ for our economy.”
Democrats can’t boast of a rapid economic turnaround, but there has been a slow, steady one. But you won’t find that fact in any Republican talking points. Their election strategy depends on it.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.