Republicans in several swing states walk a tightrope when criticizing the speed of the economic recovery. In states like Virginia, Michigan and Florida, where unemployment rates have dropped in the past several years, surrogates for the Romney campaign acknowledge that they’ve seen an economic uptick in their own states.
“I think things are definitely heading in the right direction in Florida, OK?” small-business owner Marshall Bone said on a news conference call today.
His comment was a response to questions about the inconsistency of the Romney campaign’s holding a news conference call on Florida’s poor economy, while Republican Gov. Rick Scott frequently touts the Sunshine state’s strong economy.
Although Florida’s unemployment rate remains at 8.7 percent, the state has seen a decrease of more than 1 percentage point in 2012 alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At 5.6 percent, Virginia’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, well below the national average of 8.2 percent. And the state’s governor concedes that President Obama has helped.
“The only thing I can say is he had nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus, and that was one-time spending,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told CNN’s Candy Crowley in response to a question about whether he believes Obama can take any credit for the strong economy in Virginia. “Did it help us in the short run with health care and education spending to balance the budget? Sure. Does it help us in the long term to really cut the unemployment rate? I’d say no.”
Michigan’s unemployment rate is just slightly higher than the national average – 8.3 percent – but the state has seen a decrease of more than 5 percentage points since August 2009, when the unemployment rate hit a high of 14.2 percent. Much of that turnaround is credited to the bailout of the auto industry under the Obama administration.
“I’m glad that Michigan, we’re on an uptick, but you know what, the rest of the country is not, and that is really the failure of the Obama administration,” state Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, said in a conference call today in response to a question about the effects of the auto industry bailout on Michigan’s economy.
Such comments underscore the challenge Romney surrogates in a handful of key states will face when trying to strike a balance between criticizing Obama’s financial record, without ignoring the gains made by their particular states in recent months and years.
With the latest jobs report showing just 69,000 jobs added in the month of May, however, the Romney campaign and its supporters have plenty of ammunition.