As I’ve been noting here far too often, the core claims that form the basis for Mitt Romney’s entire case for the presidency have been allowed to escape scrutiny for months and months on end. Romney claims that we know Obama’s policies have destroyed jobs because of the “net” job loss on his watch — a metric that includes the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost during the first months of Obama’s term, before those policies took effect.

I know you’re sick of hearing me say this. But it’s important.

And so it’s good to see that the New York Times’s Michael Shear has now published a whole article that gets right to the heart of what this is all about:

Mr. Romney frequently says that Mr. Obama has presided over an economy that has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. In a recent news release, the Republican campaign said, “Under President Obama, the nation has lost 552,000 jobs.”

But that statistic includes Mr. Obama’s first year in office, and especially the months of February, March and April, when monthly job losses from the economic collapse were at 700,000 or higher.

Just ignoring February of 2009, before any of Mr. Obama’s policies — including the economic stimulus — had been put into place, would wipe away all 552,000 lost jobs, giving the president a record of creating 172,000 jobs.

If Mr. Romney’s team were to ignore Mr. Obama’s first year in office — as Mr. Gillespie suggested should be done for Mr. Romney’s first year as governor — then the president would have added about 3.7 million jobs to the economy.

Of course, Mr. Romney’s campaign is unlikely to change its rhetoric or strategy. His bid for the White House depends on the idea that Mr. Obama has made the economy worse. Because the country has been adding jobs for nearly two years, Mr. Romney’s argument depends on the steep job losses in Mr. Obama’s first year in office.

The key here is Shear’s claim that Romney’s presidential candidacy “depends” on the idea that Obama’s policies have “made the economy worse.” This is Romney’s central message — any job growth that’s taken place has only done so in spite of Obama’s policies, and the recovery would have proceeded faster if Obama had never been president at all. Also key is Shear’s observation that this case in turn “depends” on factoring in the job losses at the start of Obama’ term.

“Depends” is exactly the right word. Indeed, this series of claims is absolutely central to his candidacy. This article is front page material, folks!

Shear is well respected by political reporters and observers, and isn’t just some dirty hippie liberal blogger. So maybe this will start persuading people that this is a real story that deserves serious and sustained attention.