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Wrong message, wrong place, wrong time

How does Romney argue the economy is getting worse? It's simple: he doesn't.
How does Romney argue the economy is getting worse? It's simple: he doesn't.

Mitt Romney appeared in Craig, Colorado, to deliver the same message he repeats at every campaign stop: the people in the area are "hurting right now under this president." The traditional Democratic response is that blaming President Obama for the economic crisis he inherited is ridiculous.

But yesterday in Northern Colorado was a little different: the small town of Craig isn't really hurting at all. The community's economy is faring pretty well, it weathered the recession better than most, and locals are pretty optimistic about the future.

Romney's rhetoric, in other words, conflicted with Americans' reality. Indeed, it's a problem the Republican candidate continues to struggle with. Consider this line from his speech in Colorado:

"Now [the president's] campaign these days is trying to find a twig to hang on to, some little excuse they can grab and say, 'Look, things are getting a little better, aren't they?' And the answer is yeah, things are getting a little better in a lot of places in this country, but it's not thanks to his policies. It's in spite of his policies."

Nearly every day for over a year, Romney has said Obama made the economy "worse." Slowly but surely, unable to push the claim with a straight face, Romney is conceding that the economy has improved under Obama -- but no one should give the president credit.

This is a losing argument. His pitch is, in effect, "Sure, Obama inherited a global crash, took steps to turn the economy around, and on the president's watch, the economy has improved. But vote against him anyway." It's not hard to imagine the Obama campaign simply taking all of the times Romney has touted America's economic comeback, stringing them together, and creating ad in which the Republican nominee seems to be endorsing the president's re-election.

So, what's the GOP candidate to do? Left with few options, Romney relies on dishonesty.

From yesterday's appearance:

Romney also continued his attack on Obama's 2009 stimulus package, saying that he will seek to assist private sector employment at the expense of public sector jobs.

"That stimulus he put in place, it didn't help private sector jobs, it helped preserve government jobs and the one place we should have shut back -- or cut back was on government jobs," Romney said. "We have 145,000 more government workers under this president. Let's send them home and put you back to work."

I'm reasonably certain Romney is smart enough to know he's blatantly lying. As the above chart shows, after the stimulus, private-sector job growth quickly improved. Conversely, public-sector layoffs have soared, making Romney's claims the exact opposite of reality.

For that matter, why the former governor believes mass public-sector layoffs will "put you back to work" is a mystery.