Matt Lewis

Team Romney pushes back on my post (and I respond)

As you might expect, last night’s post about Mitt Romney’s jobs record drew a predictably negative response from Team Romney. A spokesman for his campaign even emailed to tell me my comparison between Romney and Michael Dukakis was “absurd and laughably ridiculous.”

Political operatives are paid to push back on stories they perceive as damaging, so I don’t take offense to the email. That is their job, and the good ones like to “work the refs,” so to speak. And though they have provided no evidence to contradict anything I actually wrote, this spokesman did provide some legitimate arguments that deserve a response.

In his email to me, Romney’s spokesman argued that “Governor Romney inherited a massive deficit when he came into office that was hurting the Commonwealth’s ability to create jobs and attract new business.”

This has merit — and it is something I conceded in my post: “In fairness to Romney,” I wrote, “he experienced net job losses during his first two years on office. He can argue, not unreasonably, that these two years of job losses came as a result of policies he inherited.”

(I also noted that complaining about “inheriting” a bad economy — regardless of the merits — might not fly in today’s political climate.)

Next, the spokesman argued that “Governor Dukakis left office with an unemployment rate at 7.8%. When Governor Romney left office, the unemployment rate was 4.7%.”

This is a red herring. The issue I wrote about was job creation, not the unemployment rate. But while we are on the topic, it is worth noting that Dukakis left office during the recession of ’90 and ’91 — which hit the Northeast very hard. Conversely, the unemployment rate arguably went down under Romney (who left office in 2007 — just in time to avoid the economic collapse), in part, because the population of Mass shrank. But that’s a whole different analysis.

Team Romney is correct in noting that Dukakis lost jobs during his last term (which is partly attributable to the recession of ’90 and ’91) — but I never argued that he didn’t. My post — and the data supports this — said that Dukakis, on average, created more jobs as governor of Massachusetts than Romney did.

Nobody, of course, is arguing that Dukakis was a great governor — just that (as I noted) — “the data gives Romney’s opponents in both parties plenty of fodder to challenge his contention that he is the “jobs candidate.”

  • Anonymous

    Is Romney perfect?  No, of course not.

    But the larger point is this-Romney’s time as Gov. of MA was impressive given the political circumstances of that state and what could reasonably be accomplished in the face of those circumstances.  That doesn’t make him a RINO (a term that would unfortunately be applied to even Reagan today), that makes him effective.  And he is still plenty conservative enough.

    But Perry, for instance, has not been tested in the same way and, although TXs’ job creation has been impressive, it is not clear that he even has the same high end skill set that I think is necessary to navigate us out of this complicated economic mess.  Now does not seem the time to be putting our B team in the game, or C team or D team for that matter, no matter how much we may “like” them better.

    I don’t dislike Perry, it’s just that Romney has much more deep economic experience and this recession has counfounded a lot of ppl including some very smart ones and it doesn’t make one bit of sense to fool around with it.  But I have to say that Perry also carries enormous risk for us in the general election too as, if he were the nominee, it would become a referendum on both and not just a referendum on Obama.  His comments on Social Security are potentially disastrous in swing states in the Mid West like MI, IA, OH, PA, MO and in FL.  Could he win?  Yes.  But his victory would not be certain like that of Romney.

  • buddy

    I do note that you seem to have issues with Romney.  I can’t recall anything you have said about him that is positive.   You seemed to be cherry picking time frames and stats to criticize him.  In other words, you lack objectivity on Romney.

    That said, could you please explain what power over “job creation” you think a Governor has?  What control does Romney as Mass governor have over such things as the stock market, hiring and firing by nationwide and international businesses and international trade issues.  He might have the ability to create a more favorable business climate but that kind of change would take years to show up.  What were Mass job growth records during the 2 years after Romney left office?  What was the financial condition of Mass when he was elected verses when he left office.

    I would think a more relevant discussion of Romney’s performance would deal with budget issues, government effeciency, government growth, new taxes and/or fees, popularity when he left office, new business start ups, the quality of his judicial appointments, the quality of his administration and on Romney care its popularity in Mass and its pros and cons.

    Personally I like Romney, Perry, Bachman, Christie, Huntsman, Cain and Pawlenty (I wish he would have stayed in the race) and think while none of them is the perfect candidate, they are all superior to Obama.  Although Romeny isn’t my no 1 pick I like Romney not for his “job creation” in Mass but for his real intelligence, his ability to get elected in Mass, his business accomplishments, his personal business experience acquired from his father and his proposals for the future.  I liked his oped about what to do with GM and Chrysler and the auto industry. 

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  • Adam D

    The big question should be what was Massachusetts’ unemployment rate versus the national average when he left. If Romney was a two term governor it would be best to use the average while he was governor versus the average national average.  However, since he was a one term governor the rate when he left office versus the national unemployment rate is the correct barometer.  Also what needs to be taken into account is did the Massachusetts work force expand or contract.  I assume it expanded while he was governor, but if his state grew less than the national average that too should be a negative mark for him since it meant people were moving to more job friendly states. 

    But yes, when it came to job creation which the post is discussing Romney’s record is not impressive.