Top Romney adviser Kerry Healey, pushing back the other day on the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s 47th-in-the-nation jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts:

“The Obama administration has been trying to characterize the entire Romney administration with one number, which they keep saying again and again: 47th out of 50th in job growth. But in truth, really it’s a progression. ...
“Do you embrace this notion of averaging? Should we average the four years? Does that make any sense? Does that tell the voters anything? What the voters want to know is, What direction are you moving?
“Using one number, this odd average of four years, to come up with 47th in the nation, doesn’t really show what happened, which is a progression towards ... full employment in Massachusetts.”

From the Romney campaign’s press release this morning arguing, in effect, that jobs have been destroyed on Obama’s watch:

Under President Obama, The Nation Has Lost 552,000 Jobs.

I know I'm repeating myself here, but as long as the Romney campaign keeps doing this, it should be pointed out. The Romney camp has been claiming that the “net” jobs lost on Obama’s watch proves his policies failed, even though it is calculating that job loss number by factoring in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs the free-falling economy was shedding when Obama took office, before his policies took effect.

Yesterday the Times alluded to this in a piece fact-checking the two candidates:

Is it reasonable to start counting in January 2009? The economy was already shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, and none of Mr. Obama’s policies would take effect for some time. Starting the count just one month later would show a small net increase in jobs for the president’s tenure in office. Yet if he cannot be blamed for job losses in the early months of his term, can Mr. Obama be held responsible for not replacing the lost jobs more quickly?

Yes, Obama’s policies can, and should, be held at least partly responsible for the slow pace of the recovery, as should Republicans for refusing to allow Senate debate on the second round of Obama jobs proposals. But as the Times notes, the metric Romney is using to make its argument doesn’t make any sense. And yet the Romney camp has been using this metric for months and months and months, in every conceivable forum, and it is absolutely central to his whole case for the presidency. What’s more, as the Healey quote above shows, the Romney campaign doesn’t want this standard applied to his record.

Yet the basic absurdity at the heart of this is almost never noted in the national press. Indeed, the Times piece is notable simply because it took the trouble to mention the problem here, which is extremely rare, even though the Romney camp’s ongoing use of this metric could not be more relevant to what this whole campaign is about.

Paul Krugman’s question continues to remain relevant: “Has there ever been a candidacy this cynical?”