Political Animal


January 14, 2012 11:00 AM Mitt Romney’s new problem: A rising sun

By Steve Benen

Mitt Romney was on the campaign trail in South Carolina yesterday, and brought up the issue he expects to ride into the White House: the U.S. economy. Unfortunately for the former governor, the message isn’t quite the same as it was a few months ago.

In his remarks [Friday], Romney also acknowledged the economy was getting better — something he has said before….

“And [President Obama]’s going to say the economy is getting better,” Romney said. “Thank heavens it’s getting better. It’s getting better not because of him, it’s in spite of him and what he’s done.”

For those keeping track, Romney said twice in three sentences that he believes the economy is “getting better.”

I’ve noticed over the last week, this keeps coming up. Shortly before the New Hampshire primary, Romney said he’s “glad” the economy is improving, but quickly added that President Obama “doesn’t deserve” credit. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Romney also said the economy is recovering, but said “this president has not helped it.”

And in a debate for the Republican presidential candidates last weekend, Romney made his case this way:

“The president is going to try to take responsibility for things getting better. It’s like the rooster trying to take responsibility for the sun rising. He didn’t do it.”

I believe campaign professionals call this a “losing argument.”

Look, I don’t know whether the recovery will strengthen in 2012. The recent evidence has been mixed; experts’ projections vary widely; and the global threats to the economy remain real and hard to predict. There is, however, room for some optimism and Romney himself believes, in his words, economic conditions are “getting better.”

But as a campaign matter, if Romney is right about a strengthening recovery, he has to realize he’s going to lose. For the entirety of 2011, the former governor had a single message he repeated ad nauseum: Obama made a bad economy worse. It wasn’t true, but so long as the recovery was largely invisible, it was a message that could fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.

Two weeks into 2012, Romney has a new message: don’t give Obama credit for making the economy better. In effect, the Republican is arguing, “Sure, Obama inherited a deep recession. And sure, he took a bunch of steps to turn the economy around. And sure, we’re now seeing more jobs being created and more economic growth. But vote against him anyway.”

This isn’t just a tough sell; it’s an impossible one.

Look again at what Romney said in last weekend’s debate: “The president is going to try to take responsibility for things getting better. It’s like the rooster trying to take responsibility for the sun rising.”

By Romney’s own reasoning, the sun is rising and it’s morning in America. As Jon Chait put it, “This seems like a shockingly weak line — if you concede that it’s morning, you’ve lost the argument.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


  • Danp on January 14, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Itís like the rooster trying to take responsibility for the sun rising...

    says Mitt with a coxcomb on his head.

  • kevo on January 14, 2012 11:07 AM:

    Perhaps the greatest fear shared in the Romney camp is how much their candidate is beginning to resemble South Park's Bar Brady ("Nothing to see here folks, move along.")!

    Would now, this Saturday morning, be a good time to parade out what cartoon characters these Republican candidates and their campaigns remind us of?

    I'll defer to those who follow! -Kevo

  • c u n d gulag on January 14, 2012 11:08 AM:

    I guess only a Republican rooster like Mitt, or Ronnie, can crow about 'morning' in America.

    Oh, and Mitt, maybe that rooster Obama shouldn't get all of the credit for the economy getting better, but it's chickensh*ts like you, Little Boots, Boehner, Cantor, McConnell, Gramm, etc., who should get the blame for the sun setting on America.

    But you're not crowing about that now, are you?

    Last I looked, it wasn't a Democratic President who tax-cut and deregulated us into a near 3rd World country status.

    That's an egg YOU guys laid!

    Ok, that's enough fowl humor for today.

  • TR on January 14, 2012 11:10 AM:

    And if the economy worsens, you can be sure Romney will pivot on a dime and blame Obama.

    He's like Bolton. Anything bad is Obama's fault, but anything good shouldn't be credited to him. Pathetic.

  • Pal2008 on January 14, 2012 11:22 AM:

    Sounds like the Bishop is being pessimistic. Lets see, where have we heard that recently?

  • jlt on January 14, 2012 11:30 AM:

    He is a slick, elitist liar with a prayer for short memories from the voters..Think newt and the ricks will not let that be the case!

    What is he constant on? Well except that marriage and the corporate raider emotionless disconnect! Those he has down cold!

  • c u n d gulag on January 14, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Newt's kind of like a cross between Egghead Jr AND Foghorn Leghorn - with a sprinkling on top of Wile E. Coyote - SUPER Genius!

    Ron Paul is Elmer Fudd.

    Rich Santorum is Peppy Le Pew.

    Rick Perry, would be Duddly Do-Wrong of the Texas Rangers - hint: not the baseball team.

    Mitt Romney is Commander McBragg, with a hint of Snidely Whiplash. Also, Daffy Duck in that one cartoon where the artist turns him into a lot of different animals and things, including a flower in a pot.

    And the problem with Jon Huntsman is, that unlike the others, he's not really a cartoon.

    Not running:
    Haley Barbour IS Foghorn Leghorn.
    Joe Lieberman IS Droopy Dog.
    And John Bolton is Yosemite Sam, with a cherry of Taz (The Tazmanian Devil) on top.

  • DFH on January 14, 2012 11:40 AM:

    "Boah, boah, you're doin' it all wrong, boah!"

  • Shelly on January 14, 2012 11:47 AM:

    He's trying to lead the willing to believe that it was the Republicans' shennanigans that prevented Obama from making the economy worse--that the economy got better because they blocked every measure he attempted--and that the Republicans can take the credit for the current improvements.

  • rose on January 14, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Good one, c u n d gulag!

  • chi res on January 14, 2012 11:57 AM:

    Is it time to start reminding people WHO drove the bus in the ditch, and WHO's been trying to get it back on the road, and WHO's been in standing in front of it trying to push it further in the ditch?

  • T2 on January 14, 2012 12:23 PM:

    The GOP put all their eggs in the " Economy Sucks" basket, an did everything they could to make sure it still sucks in November 2012. If it does not, they'll lose. So as the economy struggles to creep forward they are left with two choices: hope the recovery stalls badly or try to convince us that the economy would have recovered faster if not for Obama. The joke on them, of course, is that if the recovery stalls or reverses and the GOP wins, they will the inherit the mess that the GOP made. But as everyone says, if the public sees a light at the end of the tunnel in November, they'll not change presidents.

  • Sam on January 14, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Sounds like Mitt is engaging in the bitter politics of envy...

  • c u n d gulag on January 14, 2012 12:57 PM:

    Not to worry.

    If the Republicans do win, and the economy is still in the toilet, they'll pull Ol' J.M. Keynes out of the hole they put him in, dust his policies off, and spend, spend, SPEND!, to improve the economy. The smarter ones (that are left, that is) know that that's the only solution. And that's why they wouldn't, and won't, let Obama do it.

    Only, of course, they'll distract people from any association with Keynesian economic policies by calling it "The Ronald "Magnus" Reagan, Dawn's Breaking Out All Over The American Morning Again" bill - or, something "Reagany" to that effect.

    And Peggy Noonan will publish the words she screams and moans out in her prolonged and shuddering climax at seeing her beloved's name again being associated with DC, politics, economics, and America - and the WaPo's Fred Hiatt will gladly print her column.

    It'll probably start, "Ronnie, oh Ronnie, oh, oh, Ronnie," and rewrite the same old 'America loves a true American like Reagan yada-yada-yada..., she's been writing from Day 1, and finish her column off with "Ronnie, oh Ronnie, oh, oh, OH RONNIE!!!"

    And after she's done writing her orgasmic column, Noonan will down her usual daily double-triple gin martini (no olives, lest she choke on them), and wash it down a large wine-box of cheap sherry.

    If I do decide to read it, I'll be sure to wear some gloves and a HaxMat suit, and have a barrel of Lysol nearby to disinfect myself.
    I recommend you do the same.

  • jjm on January 14, 2012 1:14 PM:

    I've been asking for months: what leg does the GOP have to stand on if the economy improves?

    After all, they were screaming and yelling at Obama because Cristina Romer projected an 8.5 unemployment rate about now, saying he failed, she failed, the stimulus failed.

    And yet: here we are with unemployment at 8.5.

    Mitt's prosthetic leg trying to make a field goal by changing the goal posts isn't going to work.

    I would not underestimate the degree of insanity in the GOP's undying faith in the Big Lie. But it's not going to be the leg they want or need.

  • booch221 on January 14, 2012 1:36 PM:

    So if the economy tanks, it's Obama's fault.

    If the economy improves, Obama had nothing to do with it.

  • Ben on January 14, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Steve: Great column, as always. However, please spell "ad nauseam" correctly. You've gotten it wrong for years with "ad nauseum." An easy way to remember it is spelling the word nausea and adding the m.

  • Ben on January 14, 2012 1:46 PM:

    "ad nauseam": As in, if one wants nausea, add M(itt). Another easy way to remember the spelling.

  • SYSPROG on January 14, 2012 2:33 PM:

    So tell me Mitt...what has the GOP DONE to improve the economy? They have blocked everything in the Congress, they screwed around with the debt vote and blew our credit rating and OBAMA doesn't deserve credit? What kind of MORONS do you take us for? Oh that's right...the ones you'd lay off so you could outsource...Oh and according to Bolton the President didn't get Bin Laden...oughta give up the drugs!

  • Joe Friday on January 14, 2012 3:13 PM:

    The 150 evangelical leaders who met in Texas have voted to throw their support behind Santorum.

    Go Ricky !

    Definitely want to run against a candidate who wants to outlaw birth control.

  • oakparkhiker on January 14, 2012 4:17 PM:

    What growth we are seeing is anemic. Romney needs to emphasize this and explain how Obama has set us on a course that will be unable to restore 5 % unemployment (called full employment) even by the end of a second term.

  • Gretchen on January 14, 2012 5:34 PM:

    @Joe Friday: I'm wondering why Santorum's desire to banish birth-control isn't getting more play. I think the 98% of sexually active American women who have used birth control would find that interesting.

  • Ned on January 14, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Gee, maybe it's not getting more attention because it isn't true...

  • Joe Friday on January 14, 2012 6:15 PM:


    "What growth we are seeing is anemic. Romney needs to emphasize this and explain how Obama has set us on a course..."

    You mean Chimpy Bush "set us on a course".

    The national economy went into recession in 2007.

    "...that will be unable to restore 5 % unemployment (called full employment) even by the end of a second term."

    Because the Congressional Republicans are blocking the enactment of everything that will lower unemployment and only want to pass everything that won't.

    The Republicans blaming Obama is reminiscent of the kid who murders his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.

  • Joe Friday on January 14, 2012 6:26 PM:


    Notice how the RightWing freaked out when Stephanopoulos asked about outlawing contraceptives during the ABC News debate ? They never claimed Ricky (and others) don't want to make them illegal, they just kept saying it was wrong for him to have asked the question.

  • Texas Aggie on January 14, 2012 6:28 PM:

    Santorum has managed to take a bunch of mutually incompatible stands on birth control so that no matter the point of view of the interrogator, he can claim whatever is most favorable at the time. However, his stand against the use of contraceptives has priority, and probably shows his real feelings.

    There should be more discussion of his feelings, but also there should be more discussion of his relationship with the K St. project and some of his quid pro quo votes as a senator. He chaired the biweekly meetings of lobbyists for the republican party until the Jack Abraham thing took off. Then he dropped it and tried to pretend that it never happened.

  • Joe Friday on January 14, 2012 7:00 PM:

    Actually, Ricky has been rather forthright.

    * Santorum believes that states should have the right to outlaw contraception. During an interview with ABC News, he stated:

    "The state has a right to do that, I have never questioned that the state has a right to do that. It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have."

    * Santorum has long opposed the Supreme Court's 1965 ruling that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception and has also pledged to completely defund federal funding for contraception if elected president. He told CaffeinatedThoughts.com editor Shane Vander Hart:

    "One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

  • The Oracle on January 14, 2012 9:41 PM:

    Just like roosters, Vulture Capitalists and Chickenhawk Republicans believe that they cause the sun to come up in the morning.

  • Skip on January 14, 2012 10:44 PM:

    Santorum doesn't want contraceptives, doesn't want abortion or the morning after pill, doesn't want the social services which would need to provide for most of the resulting kids, and then expects all these religious-by-product babies to grow up as healthy productive consumers?

    We REALLY need to start requiring presidential candidates to submit to and publicly publish a full battery of psychological tests by a neutral third party.

  • History Not Yet Rewritten on January 14, 2012 11:05 PM:

    Hasn't the precedent been yet set, that under George H Bush the economy sagged, under Clinton the economy rose, under George W Bush the economy tanked, and under Obama the economy is struggling to rise even against the efforts of the opposition.

    And still the right demands that they alone should carry the banner of national morality, policy, and patriotism.

  • emjayay on January 15, 2012 1:05 AM:

    Romney is seen I think as the logical, fact-based, not unnecessarily deep American corporate management kind of guy. But at any moment he is more than willing to say just about anything. The economic problem we are in has a lot of factors, but the obvious essential problem is the housing bubble. It's more of a problem than the usual stock market bubble. People live in these houses. They are not as liquid as paper investments. It was obvious to any normal economist that barring some kind of miracle it was going to take a long time to get back to normal.

    Obama's stimulus response to the problem was reduced and had a big component of tax cuts in order to get it passed. If it weren't for Republicans, a bigger stimulus with no tax breaks would have resulted in a much faster recovery. These are the facts. Any mainstream economist would agree.

    The basic problem for anyone addressing the crash was that we were already in a big national debt situation because of GWB. If we had been acting in a Keynsian fashion, there would have been a big national savings to tap to address the crash. Clinton had us on that path; GWB sabotaged it.

    Maybe the general public would understand these simple basic economic fact a little better, and Romney's ridiculous claims would fall on deaf ears, if Obama hadn't been so much about not blaming anyone for anything.

    He should have been talking about the Bush Economic Crash and the Bush Recession and the Bush National Debt from the beginning, over and over.

  • SKM on January 15, 2012 2:25 AM:

    That's true. But, the general public don't understand basic economics, and these are most of those that are avid viewers of certain MSM shows. It is also due to the LDS trying to keep most scandals secret. Like, in 2009, former LDS bishop Hammons and the VesCor Capital Corp scandal. Former LDS bishop Shawn Merriman (they called him Mormon Madoff) pyramid scheme in 2009. Jeff Mowen, Newport Financial Scandal. March Thomas supposedly conned an elderly man of his life savings. The story about Leticia Avila using the LDS connections to supposedly con undocumented immigrants $4000 a piece to get legal visas - see "Suit Accuses Woman of Immigration Scam - Utah News - Salt Lake" 7-6-2009 www.sltrib.com/news/ci_12764318. Then the not so reported scandal that there was an attempt to massacre all the people inside a the LDS temple by someone the FBI had been investigating for running a ponzi scheme. The story "Thieves in the Temple, How Affinity Fraud Hurts LDS Members." And the Grant Affleck AFCO scandal. The scandal involving the Olympics in Salt Lake City...

    I'd have to say the Grant Affleck AFCO scandal was really, really bad, in that this was really covered up. But, the general public wants someone with 'business experience,' when they have themselves don't have any idea what is happening - bankruptcies, lost pensions, lost investments, lost jobs.