I have written that I thought the better attack for Mitt Romney would be to go after Rick Perry for being a career politician rather than try to discredit, as the Democrats are, Texas’s job creation record under Perry.The reason for this is two fold. First, it would differentiate Romney’s attack from the Democrats and because the “career politician” argument is right for the zeitgeist in this election season. People intuitively give the chief executive of a state credit for job creation in the state in a way similar to giving credit to a CEO for a company’s growth. Yes, yes yes, we know that it is a citizen and business effort in the state in the same way it is an employee effort in a company. But the Governor and CEO steer the ship of state and commerce and they get the credit.That’s why Obama is suddenly getting the blame for the failing American economy and why Obama is desperate to say Rick Perry deserves no credit for Texas’s economy, which is more and more an anomaly within the union.Likewise, in a year when tea partiers are running the show, attacking Perry as a career politician who hasn’t had a real job since the late eighties is an argument worth pursuing. A Democrat turned Republican, Perry has been on the ballot in every year since 1992. Nonetheless, for now at least, Romney is going with the jobs argument.In pursuing the jobs argument — that Perry is, at best, an accidental job creator — Romney has to let go of his own record in Massachusetts. After all, if Perry cannot take responsibility for job creation in Texas, Romney can’t argue about job creation in Massachusetts during his administration.Matt Lewis explains why Romney probably won’t care about that this morning.
When Romney took office, there were 3,224,600 nonfarm seasonally adjusted jobs in Massachusetts. When he left office, there were 3,270,400, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (xls).That means under Romney’s economic policies Massachusetts saw a net gain of only 45,800 jobs; a growth rate of 1.42 percent. Other estimates vary. For example, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development estimates job growth of 51,400 over that period. But in another analysis by Moody’s Economy.com, the number was lower: only 24,400.That placed Massachusetts 47th among all states in job creation from January 2003 to January 2007.
As Lewis notes, Michael Dukakis had a better job creation record as Governor of Massachusetts than Mitt Romney — creating on average in one year the same amount of jobs Romney created in four.In fact, Romney spent the first two years of his governorship cleaning up the mess of his predecessor to get the economy going and also got bogged down in passing healthcare reform in Massachusetts. But, he cannot use that line because that might remind people of Obama.So Romney is going to walk a very, very narrow tightrope and hope he does not fall off. He will rely on his experience in the private sector with Bain Capital and the Salt Lake City Olympics. The former might not get him too far as his opponents start trotting out people Romney’s actions caused to lose their jobs in restructuring. Get ready for the Republican populist campaign against Wall Street — something both Bachmann and Romney will be happy to run with. On the latter, it is going to be very hard to convince the public that the Salt Lake Winter Olympics can scale to national problem solving.Romney has the money and manpower to walk this tight rope carefully. If he pulls it off, he is going to be a far better general election candidate than even Romney supporters can imagine. We’re already seeing an improvement in his Romneycare message. The statement he gave at the DeMint forum was the best defense yet. But it is still a very, very difficult line of attack to posit his private sector experience against a decade of amazing job growth in Texas under Rick Perry’s leadership. Innately, as much as we all say we want government to run more like a business, Americans understand that government is not a business. And Romney’s executive experience in government could undermine his argument about private sector experience.