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.”