DENVER – After a foreign trip that received its fair share of criticism, Mitt Romney is steering his campaign back to what he hopes is the more comfortable topic of the U.S. economy.
In his first campaign event returning from Europe earlier this week – and his campaign’s first event in the state since a tragic movie theater shooting two weeks ago in nearby Aurora – Romney on Thursday unveiled a “presidential accountability scorecard” he says he will use to measure his expected success in office while attacking President Obama for failing to achieve goals he set as a candidate.
“When the president was here as a candidate accepting the nomination four years ago in Colorado, he laid out the report card upon which he hoped to be judged by,” Romney told a crowd of more than 1,000 enthusiastic supporters in Colorado. Pointing principally to the high unemployment figure, he added, ““All measures he laid out are measures that have gone in the wrong direction.”
The campaign passed out copies of a six-category scorecard: jobs, unemployed and underemployed, unemployment rate, home prices, budget deficit and family income. A column marked “Obama Record” shows arrows demonstrating negative movement in each category, while two columns marked “Romney Record Massachusetts” and “Romney Plan Goals” show green arrows for positive movement.
"If I am elected president of the United States of America, my promise to you is I am going to get all those arrows green again,” Romney pledged.
Despite his unrelenting criticism of Obama, Romney touted his ability to work with Democrats in Massachusetts in a nod to the need to appeal to independent voters. Instead of advocating the my-way-or-the-highway approach of many House Republicans, he called for someone who can go to Washington and “[bury] the hatchet” to bring the two parties together to create jobs.
The announcement of the scorecard and reintroduction of Romney’s economic plan, part of the campaign’s push to appeal to the middle class, also is intended to partly counter a study by the Tax Policy Center released on Wednesday, The study from the nonpartisan joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution found that Romney’s plan would result in a net tax increase for lower- and middle-income taxpayers in order to cut taxes for the highest earners.
Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom called the report a "joke” on a Thursday conference call with reporters.
“There are serious flaws with both the authorship of that study and the methodology,” he said. “It was coauthored by a member of the Obama White House, someone who was part of the White House economic team, and the study doesn’t take into account important aspects of Governor Romney’s plan which will have a positive, pro-growth impact on the economy.”
The author he referenced is Adam Looney, who served as a senior economist on the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. However, the Wall Street Journal reported thatwhen the center published a report on then-rival Rick Perry‘s tax plan last year, the Romney campaign touted the research and called the center “objective” and “non-partisan.” And the center is directed by Donald Marron, a principal on George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.
Kevin Hassett, a Romney economic adviser, added to criticism of the study by calling it a “static” score of Romney’s tax plan that does not take into account the job creation that the campaign expects the governor’s plan to produce: 5 million to 10 million jobs higher than the baseline over a decade, which would broaden the tax base.
Romney himself said in his speech that his overall economic plan will add 12 million jobs to the economy.
The Obama campaign seized on the study and released a new online video on Thursday to highlight the report, as well as an online calculator that they say allows families to see how they would be affected by Romney’s tax plan.
In a reboot of Romney’s economic plan geared at the middle class, the candidate promised to achieve North American energy independence by 2020, improve education and skills training, expand American access to international markets for trade purposes, cut the deficit, and champion small businesses.
None of the proposals are new; instead, the campaign says they are highlighting policies Romney first unveiled a year ago and creating contrasts with the president as voters tune into the general election.
Earlier in the day, Romney’s campaign hit Obama campaign manager Jim Messina for potentially breaking the law after a House Republican committee reported on Wednesday that, as former deputy chief of staff, Messina used his personal e-mail account to shape policy while avoiding the public record.
“On its face, this appears to be a violation of the law which requires that all official communications be preserved,” Fehrnstrom said on the call with reporters.
Briefing reporters on Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the allegations, “As you know, Republicans have spent a great deal of time and money on investigations which they themselves have characterized as political.” He said Messina would forward all communications from his personal e-mail account to his official White House address to ensure that they were made part of the presidential record.
The day wasn’t all politics. Romney took a moment at the beginning of his speech to acknowledge the shooting. Before the event, he met with McKayla Hicks, a young woman who was shot in the mouth in the theater adjacent to the one where the majority of the shooting spree took place.
“The trauma here has got to be extraordinary,” Romney said. “But across the country, people are thinking about Aurora and the tragedy there and the lives that have been lost and lives changed forever. We love you and we pray for you. You're in our hearts and you're in our prayers."