A few weeks ago, Terry Branstad, the Republican governor of Iowa, went public with his complaints about the Romney campaign’s tendency to hype the bad economic news in his state. Branstad questioned the Romney camp’s release of a web video highlighting the plight of the unemployed in Iowa — where the unemployment rate of 5.1 percent is significantly lower than the national average.
“My state is seeing significant growth,” Branstad said. “We are doing very well.”
Today, with Vice President Joe Biden in the state for an event, the Romney campaign has chosen to defy Branstad’s request.
The Romney camp is out with an extensive new attack that blares: “IOWANS CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR FUTURE IN THE OBAMA ECONOMY.”
“Vice President Biden is back in Iowa today to sell voters on the disappointing results of President Obama’s economic policies,” a Romney spokeperson says. “But Iowans — like all Americans — are still struggling to make ends meet in the Obama economy.”
“Nearly One In Five Iowans Experienced Economic Insecurity In 2010, A 26-Year High,” the release proclaims.
In one sense, the Romney camp’s attack today is an answer to the dilemma it faces in the case of Republicans like Branstad. It relentlessly references the “Obama economy” and “Obama’s economic policies” in highlighting Iowans’ continued struggles, as if to clarify that the criticism shouldn’t blow back on Branstad. At the same time, though, the Romney message today is clearly at odds with Branstad’s previous request that the Romney camp tone down the doom and gloom talk about his state, as well as with his Branstad’s claim that things are improving rapidly there.
In fairness, the gap between the Romney and Branstad positions is particularly visible in Iowa, given the lower-than-average unemployment rate. And whatever is happening in key states, Romney’s jobs message will likely resonate nationally, where unemployment remains unacceptably high and the recovery is slowing.
But today’s disconnect between the Romney and Branstad messages highlights again that this will prove to be a tricky tension to navigate. The simple fact is that it’s in the interests of GOP governors to highlight the recovery in their states, even if they are swing states that are crucial to Romney’s presidential ambitions. At the same time, those ambitions depend almost entirely on the economic news in those very same battlegrounds being as bad as possible.