The Romney campaign knows it has some explaining to do.
On Sunday, the campaign defended the former Massachusetts governor’s jobs record, arguing that the state’s bottom-of-the-barrel status as 47th in job creation ignores the improvement made between the beginning and end of Romney term. But when it comes to attacking President Obama’s jobs record, the Romney campaign doesn’t always apply the same standard.
For example, the campaign’s press secretary Andrea Saul sang a different tune last month:
President Obama hasn’t created a net single new job … Since he started his presidency, he has not created any jobs. Not when you look at the full picture of the economy.
It’s a fine line for the campaign to walk, as it simultaneously uses averages and “net” jobs numbers to insist that Obama’s jobs record is sub-par. Romney adviser Kerry Healey, who served as Romney’s lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, tried to thread that needle in an appearance Tuesday on CNN. Averages, Healey said, are an unfair measure of a chief executive’s record — one that matters less than whether a leader spurred “progression.”
“Do you embrace this notion of averaging? Should we average the four years? Does that make any sense? Does that tell the voters anything? What the voters want to know is: What direction are you moving?” Healey told CNN’s John King. “Using one number, this odd average of four years, to come up with 47th in the nation, doesn’t really show what happened, which is a progression toward a very positive downward spiral, toward full employment.”
The timeline, as the Romney camp sees it: Romney inherited a bad economy brought on by the burst of the dot-com bubble — not the Republican administration that preceded him. From there, Romney cut taxes 19 times and generally created a business-friendly environment that caused the uptick in job creation.
“The question is, do you give him credit for that progress?” Healey said. “Yes, I think you do. I think you look at this as a progression.”
How does the Romney camp square that argument with its attacks on Obama’s “net” jobs numbers?
If you want to look at Obama’s campaign as a progression, said Healey, “you have to count” his first year and consider that the current 8.2 percent unemployment rate is higher than the 7.6 percent rate from January 2009 when Obama took office.
Conversely, Healey argued, Romney brought down unemployment by .9 percentage points from 5.6 percent unemployment to 4.7 percent. “We haven’t see that under the Obama administration,” Healey said.
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.