Virginia Governor and Mitt Romney surrogate Bob McDonnell (R) on Sunday floated what may turn into a Republican talking point if the economy continues to improve: It wasn’t President Obama who made it happen, it was the GOP governors.
“Look, I’m glad the economy is starting to recover, but I think it’s because of what Republican governors are doing in their states, not because of the president,” McDonnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The Virginia governor unleashed a comprehensive broadside against Obama’s economic record and governance in his first term. “It’s been a complete failure of leadership,” he said. “He cannot run on his record. He’s had no plan for jobs or energy that he’s got passed, so he’s got a tough record.”
The remarks came just two days after the Labor Department revealed the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, a development that was widely heralded as good political news for Obama.
The intricacy of McDonnell’s argument is noteworthy: He didn’t say jobs are created on the state level, as opposed to the federal level. He said the improvements happened because of Republican governors. That’s a difficult argument to make when the recovery is taking hold across the country, even in states with Democratic governors.
It’s also problematic because Republicans have been eager to give Obama ownership of the economy. But McDonnell’s trial balloon suggests that if the economic indicators continue to tick upward, the 2012 elections could shift from a battle over who’s to blame for a weak economy to who deserves credit for an improving one.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.