In the wake of today’s better-than-expected jobs report, Newt Gingrich has now released a statement bashing Obama for failing on the economy. He did this by echoing Mitt Romney’s favorite Big Lie — i.e., that the way to evaluate the success or failure of Obama’s jobs policies is to look at how many net jobs have been created or lost since he took office:

“Three full years into the Obama presidency, and there are still 1.7 million fewer Americans going to work today than there were on Obama’s Inauguration Day.

“Today’s new December unemployment figure doesn’t capture the full scale of the tragedy: almost 24 million Americans still unemployed, working part-time for economic reasons, or discouraged from looking for work.

“The Obama experiment has failed, and it is time to look to proven solutions that have successfully empowered job-creators in the past...”

It’s actually a good thing that Gingrich did this, because it perfectly reveals the reason the Republican presidential hopefuls are insisting on using the “net” jobs metric: It’s the only way they can continue to attack Obama as a job destroyer, even as jobs continue to be created on his watch.

Again: Romney, and now Gingrich, are basing their case that Obama has failed on the economy — and worse, that Obama has actually destroyed jobs — on the assertion that overall, jobs have been lost on Obama’s watch. Gingrich is claiming that this metric proves that “the Obama experiment has failed.” In other words, like Romney, he is claiming that this metric proves that Obama’s policies have failed.

But they reach this conclusion by factoring in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs that the free-falling economy continued to shed in the months that passed after Obama took office but before his stimulus took effect. Indeed Gingrich is quite explicit about this, defining his metric as a comparison between how many Americans are going to work today versus how many went to work at the time of Obama’s inauguration.

Though today’s numbers are cause for cautious optimism, there’s no denying that jobs have not been created as fast as we would like on Obama’s watch. But come on — the citation of jobs lost before Obama’s policies passed as evidence that those policies were a failure is just ludicrously, cosmically absurd, and should not be allowed to stand.

This claim is absolutely central to the entire case the GOP candidates are making — and will continue to make — against Obama’s reelection. As Gingrich’s statement today neatly reveals, it is the only way they can continue claiming that Obama is a destroyer of jobs even as jobs continue to be created. Put more simply, it is the only way they can continue to claim Obama has failed on the economy, even as the private sector has created jobs for over 20 months straight at this point.

And this claim is only spreading. So at some point news outlets are simply going to have to press the GOP candidates to justify it. Right?

UPDATE: And right on cue, Romney repeats the claim again in a statement:

“Of course it is good news fewer Americans are out of work, but thirty-five consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent is no cause for celebration. Under President Obama, we have lost 1.7 million jobs — America deserves better. Eventually our economy will recover, America always does. But President Obama’s policies have slowed the recovery and created misery for 24 million Americans who are unemployed, or stuck in part-time jobs when what they really want is full-time work. As President, I will refuse to accept high unemployment as the ‘new normal’ for our economy.”