The great recession has left the state of Ohio battered andbruised–and Mitt Romney would have you believe it'sBarack Obama's fault. Writing in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer on May 4, Romney advised Ohioans that the President has delivered them "paltryresults," and that their state is in need of "afundamental change in direction." But just three days earlier, the state's Republican governor,John Kasich, was telling a different story. "I'm verycomfortable with the [economic] trend we have in our state,"Kasich said. "Our unemployment has dropped I think more thanmost other states." (He thinks right.) "We re [moving]in the right direction," Kasich said. Obama would have you believe Kasich's version of events. |
ThePresident's campaign argues that the economy, while stilltroubled, is clearly and steadily improving. Obama's electionmay depend on whether he can successfully make that sale. And hehas gained some unlikely support: Republican governors in criticalswing states like Ohio. ( PHOTOS: On the Trail with Mitt Romney ) For Obama, it's particularly helpful that the economy isbrightening fastest in some of the most important battlegroundstates that will determine this fall's election.
Considerthree states that were the subject of new poll data released by NBC and Marist late last week: Ohio, Florida, andVirginia. Barack Obama leads Romney in all three. (By 48%-44% inboth Florida and Virginia and by 48%-42% in Ohio.) In each state,Obama's margin is wider than it is in the country as a whole,as measured in two different national polling averages which show him a less than two percentedge. It's impossible to pinpoint why Obama might be performingbetter in these states.
But one reason might be the help he'sgetting from their local economies–and the governors, all ofthem Republican, with an incentive to tell an economic story closerto Obama's than to Romney's. Romney's message, of course, is that the economy stillstinks, and that the recent job growth Obama brags about is nothingto celebrate. When the last round of so-so jobs numbers arrived onMay 4, Romney pronounced them "terrible" and "very disappointing.""We seem to be slowing down, not speeding up," he said."This is way, way, way off from what should happen in anormal recovery." ( MORE: Why the Obama Campaign Is So Confident About Beating Romney ) But Kasich and his counterparts in Florida and Virginia are singinga different tune–and not without reason. At 7.4%,Ohio's unemployment rate is more about a half-point better than the national average of 8.1percent; more importantly, it's improving about twice as fastas the national number.
Virginia has a relatively stellar 5.6 percent rate ; that's better than Romney's target for the nation at the end of his first term. With an 8.7 percentjobless rate Florida is definitely still hurting. But it'scome a long way from its crisis-level 11.2 percent rate of just ayear ago. Like Ohio's, Florida's unemployment rate isfalling twice as rapidly as the nation's.
And guess who's first in line to brag about these results,party loyalty be damned? "We're alive again!"Kasich said in his January State of the State address. We re outof the ditch. We re growing. It s happening in our state."In Virginia, meanwhile, governor Bob McDonnell's politicalaction committee released a new ad last month "celebrat[ing] Virginia s economicrecovery," as his website explains.
The site also boasts thatthe state's unemployment rate "has plunged 23% sinceJanuary 2010." In Florida, governor Rick Scott bragged earlier this month, after a miniscule 0.3 percent uptick in hisstate's unemployment rate, that "Florida'sjobless rate moved to its lowest point in more than three years andis a clear sign we are moving Florida in a direction that givesbusinesses and job creators the confidence they need to grow andexpand." It's safe to say that Eric Fehrnstrom isn't writing the talking points for these governors. Butwhile all of them support Romney, they also have their ownpolitical self-preservation in mind. And they know that it'snot just the President whom voters will blame for a rotten economy. (MORE: America's Slow Economic Recovery ) This quirky dynamic extends through several other battlegroundstates.
Nevada's Republican governor says his bloodied stateis " on the move again ." In Michigan, where unemployment has plummeted from morethan 14 percent in 2009 to 8.3 percent, Republican Governor RickSnyder declares that "much has been done," adding: "the key isto keep this going. And Wisconsin's Republican Governor,Scott Walker may survive a June 5 recall vote after relentless boasting about the state's slightly sunnier economic performance.(In a bit of turnabout, Democrats are complaining that the Republican is exaggerates the good news.) Not that these governors are affording Obama any credit. They saytheir states could be doing even better under a RepublicanPresident. But the more they feel compelled, for reasons ofpolitical self-interest, to echo the White House's taleof economic progress, the less likely they are to get one. MORE: The Obama Campaign Unleashes Real People in Ohio.
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