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Romney tags Obama on economy, job losses

| Friday, June 24, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a swipe at President Obama's handling of the economy in an interview with the Tribune-Review on Thursday, timed to coincide with the president's visit to Pittsburgh.

"The president has failed the American people on the economy," said Romney, the front-runner among eight GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination.

The former Massachusetts governor said Obama asserted just the other day that he was "extraordinarily proud" of the economic record that he has been able to produce in his first two years in office.

"I ask him in return, is he proud of the 160,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania since he was elected president?" Romney said. "Or the 51,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Pennsylvania?"

The president is scheduled to visit Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville today to talk about enhancing "the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing" and ways to more quickly move ideas "from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor," according to the White House.

Romney is using Obama's management of the economy as the centerpiece to his campaign. When Obama told workers at a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, this month that "there are always going to be bumps in the road to recovery," Romney jumped on the phrase, telling voters that he believes "unemployment is real and not something you take flippantly."

"President Obama is on track to be the first president in history to ever leave office without creating any jobs," Romney said yesterday.

Romney is playing good politics, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"He is essentially ignoring his Republican opponents and going directly after the president on the issue that, barring unforeseen events, will decide the election -- the health of the economy," Kondik said.

Though the 2012 election is many months away, allowing time for the economy to improve, voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan know that, right now, unemployment is higher than it was in October 2008. The nation's unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in May, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If Republicans make Romney their nominee, he would need to peel some Midwestern states away from Obama in order to win the presidency, Kondik said.

Romney said the nation's factory belt or rust belt can make a comeback. "Manufacturing is a great source of vitality for our country. We want to see more created in the country but his record is just the opposite," he said.

Larry Lindsey, an economist who advised three presidents, said manufacturing and jobs in the robotics sector haven't performed well during the recovery from the 2008 recession.

"This has been by far the worst performance for jobs in any economic recovery for which we have data," said Lindsey, who attended Obama's jobs summit at the White House last year.

Lindsey said that, in general, it's wiser to rely more upon entrepreneurs than government or academics because they know how to get things done and risk their own money -- "creating real consequences if they fail," he said.

The president often talks about having created jobs, Lindsey said, but "such jobs that have been gained have been produced by risk-taking entrepreneurs."

"Romney is betting that when Americans ask themselves the age-old question in presidential races -- 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago?' -- a large enough number of Americans, particularly in the Midwest, will say 'no' and vote against Obama," Kondik said.

Romney said that if he does earn the nomination, his experience solving economic problems -- compared to the president's -- is striking.

"I understand how jobs are created and how they are lost," he said. "For me, this is not an academic position or one I learned as a politician, it is something I have learned as a small businessman."

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