Political Animal


March 19, 2012 5:51 PM Gaffe Or Pivot?

By Ed Kilgore

Campaigning in Illinois today, Mitt Romney had this to say about that occasionally important issue, the U.S. economy, reports Politico’s Alexander Burns:

“I believe the economy is coming back, by the way,” Romney said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s had ups and downs. I think it’s finally coming back. The economy always comes back after a recession, of course. There’s never been one that we didn’t recover from. The problem is this one has been deeper than it needed to be and a slower recovery than it should have been, by virtue of the policies of this president. Almost everything he’s done has made it harder for this economy to recover.”

Now given his history of pre-primary gaffes, it’s possible Romney just forgot for a moment that the economy is on the brink of terminal disaster, and must be immediately rescued by a buttoned-down gent like Mitt who understands that deregulation, tax relief, and radical reductions in public spending are necessary to turn it around.

Or perhaps he’s just the first of the GOP candidates to look around the nearest corner and understand a new take on the economy is going to be necessary if the employment picture continues to improve. If so, it signals a different and much trickier message for the GOP, as noted by Swampland’s Adam Sorenson:

[A] sunnier economic outlook is calling into question who will have to make the difficult argument that the economy could have been better or worse if Barack Obama had not been elected in 2008. For most of his term, that burden has fallen to the President, who reacted to a stagnant recovery with constant reminders of the Bush years and what might have been. But the onus of this task isn’t clear anymore…
Republicans have long pointed out that “It could have been worse” makes for a lousy campaign slogan. “It could have been better” isn’t much of an improvement.

I’d go further, and note that an improving economic situation complicates an even more basic GOP desire to make the 2012 elections a referendum on how Americans feel about the direction of…well, everything. A choice between two alternative paths going forward is a vastly trickier task for a Republican Party whose agenda is just not that popular, particularly if it’s led by a presidential candidate who is just not that credible.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on March 19, 2012 5:59 PM:

    Romney's statement is obviously an intentional pivot. The problem for Republicans is they have bet the farm on keeping the economy down until after November. They are trying to heat up the base with their favorite culture war issues, but they have been very clumsy and have stumbled into a "war on women" narrative that isn't going away. The five man panel to discuss contraception is going to be the gift that keeps on giving. The DNC ought to elect Darrel Issa an honorary member. What a blunder.

  • June on March 19, 2012 6:47 PM:

    Romney's dishonesty and shamelessness continue to gobsmack me. Is he really relying on no one remembering the following economy-sabotaging antics from the GOP?

    GOP roll call of shame:
    Constant threats to shut down the government; threatening to not pay the government's bills; refusal to pass any Democratically-sponsored jobs legislation; putting anonymous holds on unemployment benefits; refusing to let the unfunded Bush tax cuts expire; refusal to raise taxes on income over $1M; refusing to agree to a significant offer of deficit reduction from the President; failure to produce any substantial job-related legislation (until what - last week? And I wouldn't call exactly call it substantial), refusal to vote for any economically-stimulative measures, etc.

    I would love to see Romney asked what effect all of the above had on the recovery.

  • Crissa on March 19, 2012 6:53 PM:

    Given that there's no mathematical way for the President's policies to have slowed the economy - unless you count the things that Republicans are for - I'm not sure it's a strong position, either.

    But low information voters tilt the scale, so... They might not hear the truth.

  • Texas Aggie on March 19, 2012 7:41 PM:

    Another romney error:

    "Thereís never been one that we didnít recover from. "

    We never recovered from the one that Bush started out with. The one we're in is on top of that one.

  • DRF on March 19, 2012 8:35 PM:

    Besides falsely laying blame for the severity of the recession on Obama, Romney knows perfectly well that Obama's policies did not make the recession deeper or the recovery slower. It's just another shameless lie from Romney.

  • anon-y-mouse on March 19, 2012 9:52 PM:

    Mr.Romney hasn't been keeping up on prequisite reading--and he certainly should have known to completely absorb "The Economic Consequences of George W. Bush," written by Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz--- a stunningly detailed article posted back in 2007--BEFORE the election of 2008--where an important economist so thoroughly delineates that the next president would have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W., noting a generation-long struggle to recoup.
    Here is the link.

  • boatboy_srq on March 20, 2012 8:12 AM:

    @Texas Aggie:

    That wasn't a Romney "error." It was just Romney as fraction-of-1%er peeping through again. THEY all recovered from the dot-bomb quite nicely: it was the rest of us that had to struggle back to some equivalence of 1999 before Lehman et al blew it all up again. Remember "jobless recovery"? Romney's comment is what that looks like.