You really couldn’t make this one up if you tried.
The Romney campaign is out with a new press release blasting Obama for presiding over a “net” loss in jobs. As I’ve been saying far too often, this metric is bogus, because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs the economy was hemorrhaging when Obama took office, before his policies took effect.
But this time, there’s an intriguing new twist in the Romney campaign’s argument.
In the same release attacking Obama over “net” job loss, the Romney camp also defends Romney’s jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts by pointing out ... that Romney inherited a state economy that was losing jobs when he took office.
Here’s the key bullet point, from the Romney release:
Governor Romney Inherited An Economy That Was Losing Jobs Each Month And Left Office With An Economy That Was Adding Jobs Each Month. After taking office at a time when the state was losing thousands of jobs every month, Governor Romney’s focus on fiscal responsibility helped create an environment where job growth returned to Massachusetts. Job growth increased throughout his term and the state added over 40,000 payroll jobs during his final year in office —the best year of job growth in Massachusetts over the past decade. Household employment grew by nearly 50,000 under Governor Romney and the unemployment rate declined to well under 5%.
As you can see, the Romney campaign is defending itself against the latest Dem attack line — that Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50th in job creation — by pointing out that Romney should be judged by the job growth that happened after jobs losses were reversed, and even by the number of jobs that were added towards the end of his term.
This is precisely the argument that the Romney campaign is implicitly dismissing as bogus when Obama makes it. Indeed, in the very same release, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul blasts Obama for his “net negative record on job creation,” which is only a “net negative” if you factor in the jobs losses at the start of Obama’s term. But in its own defense, the Romney campaign is arguing for a focus on the jobs added after the job losses that took place when Romney assumed office.
In other words, if we were to apply to Obama the same standard that the Romney campaign wants applied to itself, Obama has created millions of jobs. (Relatedly, Mike Tomasky tried to apply the same standard to both men’s records, and concluded that if you don’t factor in early job loss for either, Obama’s job growth percentage exceeds Romney’s.)
All this is more than just a gotcha. It goes directly to the heart of Romney’s entire case against Obama. The claim that “net” jobs were lost on Obama’s watch is absolutely central to Romney’s whole argument, and the Romney team has repeated it for months and months in every conceivable forum. But the new standard the Romney campaign wants applied to him — i.e., that the focus should be on jobs added after jobs losses were reversed — would seem to completely undercut this entire case.
Perhaps this, finally, will be enough to draw a bit of scrutiny to the argument that forms the core of Romney’s whole rationale for running for president.