The Romney campaign’s message that the recovery has stalled under President Obama is hitting a few road bumps in key swing states where economic conditions are steadily improving. To minimize the gap between his own message that the economy needs Romney’s expert touch and GOP governors’ message that their states are already on the upswing, the Romney campaign reportedly asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, to tamp down his effusive statements about Florida’s shrinking unemployment rate and bring his comments in line with Romney’s message.
But Florida, where the unemployment rate is still above the national average, might be the least of Romney’s worries. In other states, the local economy is improving — Ohio being a prime example.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich is unpopular, but has at least one good thing going for him: the state’s improving economy. Over the last few months, Kasich has been touring the state, spreading the good news. “All we’ve done in Ohio is to create a better environment,” Kasich said in an April appearance on “Meet the Press.” “When I took office, we were 48th in the country in job creation. And in February, working with my partners in the legislature, we were the No. 1 job creator in America, and we’re No. 4 today.”
That’s not exactly Romney’s message. Romney stood in front of a shuttered Ohio factory in April and said, “If you want to know where [Obama’s] vision leads, open your eyes.” Kasich was notably absent from the event.
The unemployment rate, which is now 7.3 percent, began ticking down before Kasich became governor, Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, told TPM. Redfern says this is largely due to the auto industry bailout. “In the case of Gov. Romney, he comes to a state which has seen a rebound of the economy, primarily in the manufacturing sector,” Redfern said. “Absolutely, I hope Mitt Romney continues to campaign with John Kasich and ask the people of Ohio whether or not reinvesting in American automobile jobs like Toledo works, because it does.”
Romney may not “understand our economy,” Ohio Democratic consultant Sandy Theis said in an email to TPM. “His auto rescue comments are ridiculous. Ohio is one of the few places where voters know what ‘managed bankruptcy’ can mean: the pensions go.”
A lot of the Obama campaign’s messaging in Ohio centers on the auto bailout and the resurgent manufacturing sector. One fact they like to share is that 80 out of 88 counties in Ohio have jobs that are part of the auto-supply chain and thus benefited from the bailout.
The Romney campaign is adamant that any economic improvement in the Buckeye State is because of Kasich and in spite of President Obama. “Anything that’s happened in Ohio, certainly Kasich has been helpful to encouraging business to Ohio,” Romney adviser Russ Schriefer said ahead of Romney’s appearance in Ohio last week.
“Given the fact that there’s a debate right now over who does get the credit is starting to resonate a little bit,” Theis said. On who will ultimately win credit for Ohio’s economy, she said, “it’s too early to figure out.”
Update 11:13 AM: Governor Kasich’s office says that the Romney campaign has never asked them to change his economic message. “Absolutely not,” Kasich spokesman Robert Nichols told TPM. “To the contrary, Gov. Romney has been very publicly holding up Ohio’s pro-growth policies as a blueprint for the rest of the nation.”
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.