Mitt Romney was pretty clear over the weekend that he believes the best way for Republicans to defeat President Obama in 2012 is to focus on the economy. That’s not how he saw things in the fall before the midterm elections.
In a speech in Los Angeles in September, Mr. Romney suggested that the president would be “difficult to beat” in 2012 because of an improving economy. If Mr. Obama was vulnerable, he predicted, it would be because of a perception among some that he does not share the values of the American people.
“He will do everything he can to get the economy going back again, and most likely — at least in my view — the economy will be coming back,” Mr. Romney said at the time. “They will take credit for the fact that things are getting better. That will help the president’s re-election effort.”
Speaking to about 300 people at a New Hampshire hotel on Saturday night, however, Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a likely Republican candidate for president, said that Mr. Obama not only “doesn’t have a clue how jobs are created,” but also made the economic crisis worse.
“The consequence is soaring numbers of Americans enduring unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies,” Mr. Romney said. “This is the Obama Misery Index, and we’re not going to let the American people be fooled.”
In fact, the economy has improved, which makes Mr. Romney’s change in sentiment curious. In September, when he thought Mr. Obama was in good shape, the economy lost 95,000 jobs. In February, the economy gained 192,000 jobs, but Mr. Romney now sees the president as being vulnerable on the issue.
Mr. Romney’s rivals in the Republican party are sure to note the shift and to suggest it reinforces questions about whether he changes positions too easily. Asked about the different assessments, a spokesman for Mr. Romney reiterated the current message.
“President Obama is vulnerable on a number of fronts, but his Achilles’ heel is jobs and the economy,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, the spokesman. “The economy will come back eventually. None of us knows for certain when that will happen, but Mitt Romney believes President Obama through his actions has deepened and prolonged the recession.”