AdWatch: Obama hits Romney's economic record

June 4, 2012 - 4:12 PM
Obama AdWatch

FILE - In this June 1, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in Chicago. Obama campaign says its ad buy is in the $10 million range, airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — TITLE: "Heard it Before"

LENGTH: 60 seconds

AIRING: Obama campaign says its ad buy is in the $10 million range, airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

KEY IMAGES: "It started like this," says a narrator over an image of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney from his 2002 campaign for governor of Massachusetts. "I speak the language of business," Romney says. "I know how jobs are created."

Says a narrator: "But it ended like this: One of the worst economic records in the country." To back that up, the ad says Massachusetts lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, a rate twice the national average, while the state fell to 47th in job creation.

The ad includes images of empty plants, a vacant office and a Boston Globe opinion article with the highlighted words "Romney's economic record one of the worst in the country." It says instead of hiring workers from his own state, Romney outsourced call-center jobs to India, cut taxes for millionaires like himself while raising them on the middle class and left the state $2.6 billion deeper in debt.

It concludes: "So now, when Mitt Romney talks about what he'd do as president ... remember, we've heard it all before," the narrator says. "Romney economics: It didn't work then, and it won't work now."

ANALYSIS: Obama's re-election campaign wants to undercut Romney's central pitch to voters that his background as a businessman and governor makes him more qualified to fix the economy. The ad to be aired in several battleground states aims to build off previous attacks by the Obama camp on Romney's record as a venture capitalist at Bain Capital, and follows an uptick in the nation's unemployment rate, a fresh challenge for Obama as he seeks a second term.

But the new ad doesn't tell the full story about Romney's record. Governors generally have limited influence on creating jobs, given the broad economic forces at work.

The ad's claim that Massachusetts under Romney's leadership lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs, twice the national average, is backed up by federal labor statistics. So is the claim that the state was 47th in job creation. But there's more to it than that.

Massachusetts already was losing jobs when Romney took over as governor in 2003, but the trend was reversed during his tenure. Unemployment dropped from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his governorship.

The claim that Romney outsourced call center jobs to India instead of hiring Massachusetts workers is based on Romney's veto of a budget provision that would have barred overseas outsourcing by vendors doing business with the state. Citigroup had a state contract for an electronic food stamp program that included a call center in India.

Romney, who had his own plan to curb outsourcing that stalled in the Massachusetts Legislature, said he vetoed the provision because it was poorly crafted and would have steered business away from the state, costing jobs and money. The Boston Herald and The Boston Globe supported him.

The ad's claim that Romney cut taxes for millionaires like himself while raising them on the middle class also lacks some key background. It's true that Romney signed a bill approved by the Democratic-run Legislature repealing a retroactive capital gains tax hike and sending out about $275 million in tax rebates. But the change had been ordered by the state's top court to fix a problem left over from before Romney took office. The Legislature had approved a capital gains tax increase to start in May 2002, and the court ruled that it was unconstitutional to create a new tax midway through the year.

While he did not raise the state's income or sales taxes, Romney and Democratic lawmakers raised hundreds of millions of dollars in new and higher fees on everything from marriage licenses to real estate transactions that cost many middle-class families.

The ad's claim that Romney left the state $2.6 billion deeper in debt is based on figures from the state treasurer about the state's long-term debt for capital improvements.

Michael Widmer, president of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed fiscal watchdog group, said it is not unusual for long-term debt to grow. The state usually spends about $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually on capital projects such as highways and schools, he said.

Long-term debt is different from the state's operating budget, which by law must be balanced each year. The capital budget gets paid through debt service, a line item in the state's annual budget.