Dems’ coordinated response to GOP candidates aimed at economic, not social issues

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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GOP frontrunners Govs. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty were singled out for criticism by several Democrats.

“Under Mitt Romney’s leadership Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 states in job creation … Thanks to Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota was left with a $6.2 billion projected deficit,” said a statement from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“During [Romney’s] four years as governor, Massachusetts was ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation,” former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told MSNBC Tuesday morning. Pawlenty, he added, created only 6,000 jobs and left the state with a debt of $6.2 billion.

A DNC video used clips from the debate to ridicule the GOP candidates as out-of-touch with American’s economic concerns. In sequence, it showed Herman Cain talking about Islamic law, Pawlenty praising former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Romney saying he will repeal Obamacare, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich urging construction of a station on the Moon.

The on-screen text declared that “The phrase ‘middle class’ wasn’t spoken … Not a word about education … Most of the candidates want to re-fight the debates of the past … But at least one candidate had a vision of the future … The Republicans: What in the world are they talking about?”

The DNC video will be widely viewed by Democratic activists, but the coordinated response was aimed at the national audience of potential swing-voters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also cited the same themes. “I was struck by the fact that over the course of two hours, the phrase “middle class” and the word “education” did not pass anyone’s lips,” he told reporters during the daily press conference.

That, he said, “was striking to me because the middle class is obviously, to our mind, the primary focus of everything that we do in terms of the economic policies we pursue and the concerns we have.”

Democratic critics largely ignored lower-rated candidates, such as Cain and even Rep. Michele Bachmann, who put on a strong showing.

The pushback from Gibbs, Carney and Wasserman Schultz ignored many other issues – amnesty for immigrants, environmental regulations, sex-related questions – that Democrats routinely champion in their outreach to Democratic-leaning voters, but that also are a turn-off for many swing-voters who are now worried about the stalled economy.

Obama won’t be judged solely on his own record, argued Gibbs. “This will not be a referendum about Barack Obama,” he said. ‘This will be a referendum on Barack Obama and whoever his opponent will be.”

Under Obama’s tenure, economic growth has stayed low, the deficit and national debt have grown, and unemployment has stayed high. In May, the formal unemployment rate nudged up to 9.1 percent, and the number of long-term unemployed grew.

In the voting booth, “people will look and say these [GOP candidate’s proposals] aren’t solutions, and simply they proposing more tax cuts for millionaires,” Gibbs said. “People will have a choice on where we will continue making progress or go to something different.”