EXETER, New Hampshire — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) launched his presidential campaign in May on the premise that he was a better alternative to President Obama on the economy, and in the ensuing months his attack on Obama was precise: Obama, Romney said, “made the recession worse.”
When multiple outlets, ThinkProgress included, pointed out that Romney’s claim was false, he walked it back. In July, NBC’s Sue Kroll asked Romney, “How can you continue to say things are worse when they really aren’t worse?” Romney responded: “I didn’t say that things are worse. What I said is that the economy hasn’t turned around.”
In New Hampshire this week, however, Romney has repeatedly returned to the old talking point, saying during both debates here that Obama made the economy worse and repeating it again at an event in Rochester this morning.
The attacks, despite their frequency, are still false by virtually any measure. The stock market is nearly 6,000 points higher than it was the day it bottomed out in March 2009. Though job loss continued early in the Obama administration after he inherited the worst of the recession, the private sector has seen job gains for 22 consecutive months. And across the economy, there are indicators — from GDP growth to retail sales — that the economic recovery is continuing.
In the spin room after Saturday night’s ABC News debate, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom stood by the talking point, telling ThinkProgress that the fact that the unemployment rate was above eight percent and that millions of workers remain unemployed is proof that Obama made the economy worse.
“25 million Americans who are either out of work or stuck in part-time jobs when they want full-time work, or you know what, they’ve completely given up,” Fehrnstrom said. “That’s our evidence. … If you look at the three years of his presidency, he’s had a 1.7 million net job loss.”
But Fehrnstrom’s claims about job losses are misleading. More than half a million of the jobs lost since Obama took office belonged to public sector workers and are the types of jobs Romney himself has promised to eliminate should he become president. And as this chart shows, the private sector job losses under Obama happened immediately after he took office, when the economy was still on the downswing following President Bush. Since then, the trend has been positive.
Romney has had trouble sticking with the truth over the past weeks. He continues to falsely claim that Obama hasn’t “created any new jobs,” and he has yet to back up his own assertions that Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Romney founded, created 100,000 jobs. That claim was found false by multiple fact checkers, and even Romney’s campaign admitted it was bogus.
“If he’s continuing to claim the president has made the economy worse, the facts are just staring him in the face that that’s not accurate,” Florida Rep. and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz told ThinkProgress in the spin room after the debate. “That narrative just doesn’t work for them anymore. Eventually American voters are going to see through it.”