Job growth under Republican governors presents challenge for Romney, help for Obama

Published: Friday, July 6 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, right, introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney during a campaign stop at Bavarian Inn Lodge on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 in Frankenmuth, Mich.

Associated Press

States like Florida and Wisconsin are seeing economic growth and President Barack Obama wants some credit, but Republican governors say their states are succeeding in spite of the federal government — not because of it.

"To deny we've made progress over the last three years doesn't make sense," Obama said during a speech at the end of June. "I've noticed as I've traveled around the country there are a lot of Republican governors who are starting to take credit for improvements in the economy except when I show up and then suddenly they think we had nothing to do with it."

The president's remarks came a week after a Bloomberg report suggested that Republican Mitt Romney was facing a governor dilemma. GOP governors are touting improved economic conditions in their states, but have collided with Romney's efforts to tie an anemic U.S. economy to Obama in the process. This, in turn, has given the president the chance to talk about and take credit for bettering the economy.

In his Bloomberg story, reporter Michael C. Bender wrote that the Romney campaign asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott to tone down his praise for economic improvements in his state. A Scott spokesman said the report was inaccurate and that nobody from the Romney campaign had reached out to the Florida Republican, but that didn't stop the Obama Truth Team from releasing a fake memo about the reported conversation.

"Rick, I see you've been touting Florida's improving economy — please stop," the fake memo said. "Your facts are undermining my contention that Barack Obama is stifling the recovery, which is my whole platform. And if you see Governors Kasich, Snyder, Walker, and McDonnell, it would be marvelous if you could pass the word along to them too."

The governors mentioned in the faked memo are all Republicans elected during the 2010 GOP wave, in which new Republican leaders took or kept governorships in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The current breakdown between Republican governors and Democratic governors is 29 to 20, with one Independent. Republicans also took over at least 19 Democratic-held chambers in the 2010 election.

Since then, the states mentioned in the fake memo, as well as other Republican-controlled states, have seen economic growth.

Chief Executive listed the 2012 top 10 states for business based on taxation and regulations, workforce quality and the living environment. The states, from No. 1 to No. 10, were: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Utah and Arizona. North Carolina is the only one with a Democratic governor. The state moved down one spot from its 2011 rank while Georgia dropped 3. The status of the other states remained unchanged or improved from last year's listing.

An examination of the unemployment data in states that flipped to Republican governors in 2010 shows that from May 2011 to May 2012, Florida saw a drop in unemployment from 10.6 percent to 8.6, Iowa from 6.0 to 5.1, Michigan from 10.6 to 8.5, Ohio from 8.8 to 7.3, Oklahoma from 5.9 to 4.8, Tennessee from 9.4 to 7.9 and Wisconsin from 7.6 to 6.8. Kansas has a current level of 6.1 percent, Maine of 7.4, New Mexico of 6.7, Pennsylvania of 7.4 and Wyoming of 5.2 percent. The national average is 8.2 percent.

States that flipped from Republican to Democrat — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont — also saw drops, with California moving from 11.9 in 2011 to 10.8 in 2012 and Connecticut from 8.9 to 7.8. Unemployment in Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont sat at 6.3, 5.6 and 4.6 percent respectively.

A Daily Caller report broke down Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and found that Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures presided over 16 percent more job creation than their Democratic peers from January 2010 to April 2012.

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