Mitt Romney has made weak job growth under President Obama and his promise to do better the central argument of his candidacy. The Romney campaign sends out daily missives with headlines like “College Students to Obama: Where are the Jobs?” and “President Obama has Failed to get California Back to Work.” They have made multiple videos to hammer the point home.
In fact, whenever Romney is asked about another issue, he is liable to preface his answer by saying that nothing matters so much as jobs. In the last Republican debate,when asked about “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, he began with the total non sequitur, “Well, one, we ought to be talking about the economy and jobs.”
At the same debate Romney asserted:
“What this president has done has slowed the economy. He didn’t create the recession, but he made it worse and longer. And now we have more chronic long-term employment than this country has ever seen before…. This president has failed. And he’s failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing…. I spent my life in the private sector, twenty-five years…. You can tell how—how to get jobs going in this country, and President Obama has done it wrong.”
Such a claim—that President Obama has failed at creating jobs and Romney’s private sector experience means he would do better—naturally raises the question: How has Mitt Romney done at creating jobs?
Not so well, as it turns out. First, during that quarter-century of private sector experience, Romney worked at a private equity firm that attempted to take over and turn around failing companies. As Bloomberg reported last week, that often meant laying off workers. Other times, they failed to revive companies and shed workers in bankruptcy. Relative to an innovative entrepreneur such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who invented a product and built a large company, Romney’s record in the private sector was not one of impressive job creation. These incidents have haunted Romney’s career since 1994, when laid-off workers protested his Senate campaign.
But even if you were to assume that any private-sector experience equals job creation, it does not necessarily follow that business success translates into success in public office. As governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, Romney presided over anemic job growth. According to Reuters, “Labor Department figures showed Massachusetts ranked forty-seventh among the states in the rate of jobs growth in those four years —ahead of only Ohio, Michigan and Louisiana.” You might expect this to make Romney shy about constantly attacking anyone else’s record on job growth, but it hasn’t. Nor, apparently, has a series of embarrassing revelations about Romney’s campaign commercials and speeches.
In June Romney released an ad featuring a recent college graduate named Ryan King of Midland, Michigan, who complained that he could not find a job. As it turned out, King got a job within days of his college graduation and also happens to be vice-chair of the Midland County Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal dubbed the ad “A Baloney Sandwich.”
Meanwhile Romney’s bizarre commercial in which Nevadans stand up and declare they are “not a bump in the road” as a retort to President Obama’s acknowledgment that there have been bumps in the road to economic recovery was plagued by similar dishonesty. Two of the people holding up signs complaining about the lack of jobs available to them turned out to be full time students and leaders in the University of Nevada–Las Vegas College Republicans chapter.
Undeterred, Romney has pressed ahead with using these phony stand-ins for supposed victims of Obama’s economic record. Last week a Romney ad in New Hampshire featured Packy Campbell, a former Republican state legislator whose business suffered “in the Obama economy.” It turns out that, even by Campbell’s own admission, his business was falling off before Obama took office.
Meanwhile Romney visited the Valley Plaza shopping center in North Hollywood, California, to lament that it has not been redeveloped because of economic conditions. As TPM’s Benjy Sarlin explains, the strip mall was badly damaged in a 1994 earthquake and has struggled ever since. And the death blow to its redevelopment plans were delivered by none other than iStar, a company owned by Romney donor Jay Sugarman, which foreclosed on the property. The Romney campaign did not return a request for comment.
Will any of these embarrassing, dishonest gaffes cause Romney to shift his campaign’s focus? Thus far they have not. On Monday, Romney was back at it, with a press release titled “President Obama has Failed Hispanic Americans on Jobs.” Of course, being shamelessly hypocritical has never bothered Romney before, so why should it start to now?