Yesterday I noted that one of Obama’s most important tasks at tonight’s debate is to spell out clearly that Mitt Romney is selling the American people a bill of goods on jobs and the economy. Romney has promised that his “five point plan for the middle class” will create 12 million jobs. Of course, economists have estimated that the economy will create that many jobs in four years without any Romney policies.

But Post fact checker Glenn Kessler decided to take Romney’s plan at face value. And he’s made an important discovery. It turns out Romney’s plan is an even more absurd exercise in flim-flam than we thought: The studies the Romney camp itself cites in defense of the plan don’t back up the plan’s promises.

Romney’s 12 million jobs promise is based on the idea that achieving energy independence will create three million jobs; tax reform will create seven million more; and that expanding trade and cracking down on China takes us to 12 million. But, in­cred­ibly, when Kessler asked the Romney campaign to back up these claims, this is what he got back:

We asked the Romney campaign and the answer turns out to be: totally different studies … with completely different timelines.

For instance, the claim that 7 million jobs would be created from Romney tax plan is a ten-year number, derived from a study written by John W. Diamond, a professor at Rice University.

This study at least assesses the claimed effect of specific Romney policies. The rest of the numbers are even more squishy.

For instance, the 3-million-job claim for Romney’s energy policies appears largely based on a Citigroup Global Markets study that did not even evaluate Romney’s policies. Instead, the report predicted 2.7 million to 3.6 million jobs would be created over the next eight years, largely because of trends and policies already adopted — including tougher fuel efficiency standards that Romney has criticized and suggested he would reverse.

There you have it. Ten million of those jobs in Romney’s plan represent an entirely bogus promise. As for the remaining two million jobs that would be supposedly created by Romney’s trade policies, the report supplied by the Romney camp bills itself as “highly conditional” — and also doesn’t evaluate any of Romney’s policies. Kessler dubs Romney’s plan “bait and switch.”

Let’s recap what Kessler has discovered here. The plan that is central to Romney’s candidacy on the most important issue of this election — jobs — is a complete sham. This is every bit as bad — or worse — than Romney’s claim to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, or his vow to cut spending by eliminating whole agencies without saying which ones, or his refusal to say how he’ll pay for his tax cuts.

This could not have come at a better time for Obama. Here is the evidence he needs to spell out as clearly as possible that Romney is peddling economic hokum to the American people. Any fair reading of the backup the Romney campaign itself supplied for his plan reveals that it is nothing but a bill of goods. Obama needs to seize on this in a big way. This should be a big story.

Oh, and by the way: Economists have evaluated Obama’s jobs plan. And they concluded it would create one to two million jobs. The bottom line is simple: One candidate has a jobs plan, and the other doesn’t.


UPDATE: The Obama campaign releases a statement slamming Romney’s jobs plan as a fraud.

* Clinton makes case against Romney tax plan: The Obama camp rolls out a new Web video featuring Clinton arguing that, yes, Romney’s tax plan would cut taxes on the rich, and no, it would not pay for itself:

The key is that Clinton frames the case against Romney’s tax plan as a battle of values — as “we’re in this together” versus “you’re on your own.” Obama is likely to emphasize this tonight, and Clinton will likely make this case on the air in the swing states, too.

* Dems worried about Ohio? Via Taegan Goddard, Mark Halperin spells out the nightmare scenario for Democrats: Romney winning three southern battlegrounds (Florida, North Carolina and Virginia) plus Ohio, which (reports Halperin) Dems are no longer dismissing as a remote possibility.

* Race tightens in Pennsylvania: A new Quinnipiac University poll finds Obama leading by 50-46 in Pennsylvania, down significantly from a pre-debate poll that showed Obama up by 12 points. Nate Silver has noted that a tightening of three or four points would be expected in states like Pennsylvania, but in the Q poll the race has narrowed by eight, so either its an outlier, or the previous poll overstated Obama’s lead, or it’s a sign of more polling to come. Neither campaign is advertising here, a sign neither views the state as genuinely in play.

* Ignore the talk about Pennsylvania and Michigan: You’ll be hearing a lot of chatter in coming days suggesting that Romney may make a play for those Dem leaning states, but a Romney adviser admits to Alexander Burns that this would just be blowing smoke.

* Obama should link Romney policies to Bush: Mike Tomasky says Obama needs to remind voters that Bush made the same policy promises on taxes and growth that Romney is making now, without delivering:

We are now at a point where the only people who even remember this and are making the connection between Bush policies and Romney proposals are liberal political junkies, which isn’t much of the population. Obama needs to remind swing voters of what happened.

Obama needs to make it clear not just that Romney is peddling the American people an economic bill of goods, but that it’s the same bill of goods that was peddled to them before.

* Obama campaign vows to spell out Romney policies: Buzzfeed reports that the Obama camp views unmasking the truth about Romney’s policies to be job one for tonight’s debate. Also: Public perceptions about who won the debate are heavily influenced by media coverage of it — and the Obama camp is vowing not to get caught flat-footed in the post-debate spin wars this time around.

* Obama should follow Clinton model: Adam Serwer digs into the history and finds a good 1992 example of Clinton relating to the debate audience while explaining that the GOP is in the grip of a “failed econonmic theory,” which happens to be the same theory the GOP nominee is pushing 20 years later.

* Wisconsin, the land of the persuadable voter: Joel Achenbach has a nicely reported piece on the deliberations of undecided voters in Wisconsin, and what they’re concluding about Romney and Obama. One key to the outcome are those who voted for Bush and then Obama, but are now having doubts about reelecting the president — yet are torn about Romney’s character.

Wisconsin is emerging as key to an Obama win; with that state plus Ohio, he only needs one more mid-sized swing state to reach 270.

* And Ohio, the land of the unmoved voter: Why is Ohio so stubbornly in Obama’s corner? Jason Horowitz explores the refusal of working class Ohioans to support Romney in the numbers he needs. It may be all about the fact that Dems are aggressively “reminding all those dependent on the auto industry that the president fought to save it.”

What else?