Democrats are not letting go of a Bloomberg News report that says Mitt Romney's campaign asked Florida's Republican governor to ease up on spreading good economic news. The report said good news would clash with Romney's message that the nation is suffering under President Obama.
Two people told Bloomberg that the campaign asked Gov. Rick Scott to "tone down his statements." Democrats have interpreted that as Romney "rooting for failure" as far as the economy is concerned.
Romney and Scott deny the story, which highlights a strategy problem for the GOP: How do you make Obama look bad on the economy while hailing Republican governors in states where the economy is improving?
In a way, Romney's predicament is similar to what Obama faced in 2008, as the financial crisis took hold. As the economy sputtered, voters sought change and sided with Obama over John McCain, a Republican whom Democrats tried to tie to George W. Bush and his "failed policies." Left unsaid publicly in the Obama campaign was that the worse the economy got, the better Obama's chances were for victory.
"Many governors have brought new ideas and fresh approaches to their states, and Governor Romney frequently praises them for their ability to overcome the job-stifling policies of the Obama Administration," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement. "Any statement to the contrary is not in line with Governor Romney's thoughts or his message."
Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, said in an email, "It's nice to have even Democrats and President Obama's campaign pushing a story acknowledging the good job Governor Scott is doing in Florida, but no Romney official has asked Governor Scott or staff to change our message."
Romney faces a similar problem in Michigan, Ohio, Nevada and Virginia — key battleground states in which Republican governors are trying to enhance their own political prospects by talking up economic progress.
In those states, governors say that they deserve credit for the recovering economy, not Obama.
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said the Romney campaign has "absolutely not" asked the governor's office to change its message on the economy. "Romney is holding up Ohio's pro-growth policies as a blueprint for the rest of the nation," he said.
Nichols said Romney's campaign communicates with Kasich's office "routinely" but said he couldn't give many details.
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, said she wasn't aware of any communication between the Romney camp and Snyder's team on economic messaging.
"Some of these tough challenges that have gone untackled for some time — I think with the governor's leadership, we've actually been able to accomplish those," Wurfel said.
Bloomberg reported that an adviser to Romney asked Scott's staff members this week to change their message on the economy, after the governor asked supporters to publicize Florida's drop in the unemployment rate on social media.
Top Democratic officials from the swing states of Florida, Michigan and Ohio piled on Romney. "He's rooting for failure," Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call with reporters. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer called it "worst kind of politics." "Ohio is proud of the change we've seen under PO's leadership," said Ohio Democratic Party Chair Chris Redfern.
"Mitt Romney and Republicans cannot have it both ways," said former Iowa Governor Chet Culver. "They can't on the one hand suggest that we're not recovering but on the other hand have Republican governors that talk every day about the progress and the recovery in their particular states."
Martin O'Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said in a statement that "Mitt Romney would rather see the American economy fail before the election than see President Obama win."