But listen to Republican governors and there is a different message. Whether it is in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin or other potential swing states, many GOP governors talk of the improvements they’re seeing. As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker put it on Monday, with Romney standing next to him on a stage in Janesville, “We’ve turned things around in Wisconsin.”
On Wednesday, Obama campaign officials held a background briefing in Washington. Among the points they made was that Romney’s campaign strategy is predicated on bad economic news. As one of the campaign’s most senior officials put it, “They’re putting all their chips on worsening economic news. They’re rooting for it.”
Then came a news report Thursday that the Romney team had asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) not to tout the improvements in his state’s economy, which appeared to confirm that the GOP candidate, if not rooting for bad news, was attempting to suppress good news. Scott’s office soon denied the report.
In fact, Romney has found a way to try to meld the two seemingly contradictory messages. He says that the policies of Republican governors, in contrast to those of some Democratic governors, are helping to fix the economies of those GOP-led states, and that the federal government could benefit from a dose of the same medicine.
During an appearance in Davenport, Iowa, Romney credited the state’s low unemployment rate — 5.1 percent — to the leadership of Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. GOP governors nationwide, he said, are making “tough choices” and, as a result, their states “are seeing real progress.”
He compared those states with California — led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown — where the unemployment rate is still in the double digits and where lawmakers face another big hole in their budget. “We have a president who’s put us on a path to California and Europe,” he said.
Walker echoed that theme Monday when, after pointing to the improvements in his state, he said, “It’s time to elect a leader who can turn things around for America.”
This is the contrast many Republicans hoped to make this year after the 2010 midterm elections, the distinction between GOP governors following a small-government, pro-business philosophy vs. a Democratic president who they say has put his faith in government over the market. For Romney, attaching himself to GOP governors offers the additional benefit of helping to keep his distance from unpopular congressional Republicans.
But is there a clear pattern that shows that states led by Republican governors since 2010 are doing significantly better than states governed by Democrats? And who should get the credit for an improving economy in a state, the governor or the president? Those questions will frame the debate between now and November.