Mitt Romney released a much-discussed new video today that hammers away at the “Obama Misery Index” and features one Ryan King of Midland, Michigan, who has fallen on hard times. King, a recent college grad, talks in somber, apolitical tones about his economic situation, claiming he has $3 to his name and that he eats bologna sandwiches because they’re cheap.
“Frustration is the big word,” King says, claiming that prospective employers want experience, even for jobs he’s qualified for. “My hands are tied...how am I gonna get experience if no one will hire me in?”
“Is it my fault that I can’t get a job?” he says. “To a certain point, you just start losing faith in yourself.”
It turns out there’s a bit more to King’s story than that, though.
In 2009, King was identified in the local press as the vice treasurer for the Midland County Young Republicans. He seems to have been a local Republican activist since; his Facebook page shows him partying away at the 2011 state GOP convention.
King’s employment history is also unclear. As late as May, he boasted on his Facebook page of getting a job at Quality Marketing Enterprise in Midland, as a marketing accounts rep. “Got the job, booya!!!” he exclaimed.
An employee at Quality Marketing tells me King no long works at the company. But he seems to have gotten a job since. If you listen to the video, at one point he says: “Right now I have about $3 to my name before I cash my paycheck tomorrow.”
I couldn’t reach King to get him to elaborate on his story. But Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, emailed:
He’s struggling right now, just like millions and millions of other Americans. The only person who apparently thinks the economy is doing well is President Obama, and no one but him believes that to be the case.
To be clear, this isn’t to belittle the economic situation in Michigan, where unemployment tops 10%; and I’m sure King does have it tough. But given the tone of King’s extensive lament, and the degree to which the campaign presents his story as a neutral, apolitical hard-luck tale, it seems fair to add this additional context.
UPDATE: Dave Weigel dissents, saying we should leave King alone and that he’s “underemployed,” and that Dems pile on at their peril.
I’d argue that it’s perfectly legitimate to ask to know the whole story here. The GOP frontrunner is holding King up as representative, in order to hammer Obama on the economy. But there seem to be inconsistencies, or at least imperfections, in the story — at one point he says his inability to find a job makes him feel terrible; and at another he talks about his paycheck. Plus he seems to have had another job a month ago.
Given the seeming inconsistencies, the Romney camp’s use of King to make a political point, and King’s own history of GOP activism, it’s fair to ask for his full story.
UPDATE II: Until we know more, it’s probably fairer to describe King as a GOP “activist,” as opposed to an “operative,” so I’ve edited the above to reflect that.