If Romney wins the nomination, his strategists argued, the fall campaign against President Obama will be shaped by what they described as an overarching sense of “prolonged misery” among voters who are just as concerned about the housing crisis as with unemployment and believe the nation is on the wrong track.
Polling data suggest the economy will remain a challenge for Obama unless the turnabout is dramatic and unequivocal over the next nine months. Despite five straight months of falling unemployment, more Americans say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy than say they approve of it, and just 9 percent of Americans said January in a Washington Post-ABC poll that they were seeing a strong economic recovery.
Romney will not dwell on how terrible the economy has been, his advisers said. After years of economic angst, he will not have to.
Instead, even if the jobs picture continues to brighten, Romney will warn voters against settling for a mediocre recovery, his advisers said. An unemployment rate of 8 percent or more should not be embraced as “the new normal,” a Romney aide said. Key to the candidate’s approach will be sounding as optimistic as possible while still assailing Obama’s economic stewardship.
Still, as the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years, Republican and Democratic strategists wondered Friday what path to the presidency there could be for Romney — who is running as the master of turnarounds — if the economy has already turned around by the fall.
At three campaign stops across Nevada on the eve of the state’s caucuses, with polls showing him well ahead of former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Romney broadened his pitch far beyond jobs. He turned to other economic indicators, including lower median incomes, falling housing values and dwindling retirement savings.
“I believe the economy will come back. It always does,” Romney told a morning roundtable of eight northern Nevada business leaders. “It has taken a lot longer than it should have to come back, in part because the policies of this administration have not been helpful, they in fact have been harmful.
“They have slowed down the recovery, made it more difficult, and as a result American families have suffered, businesses have laid off people and have had a hard time rebuilding,” the former Massachusetts governor added. “For that, the president deserves the blame that he’ll receive in this campaign.”
Gingrich, when asked about the job numbers, said that while the president may get some credit, broader questions of the economy remained problematic for Obama.