As TPM noted, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell begrudgingly admitted that President Obama's policies have helped his state, undermining Mitt Romney's arguments that his policies have made the economy worse: Bob McDonnell: OK, Obama Deserves A Little Credit:
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Sunday sought to thread the needle between touting Virginia’s improving economic outlook and blaming President Obama for the nation’s woes — and ended up going somewhat off script.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, he initially resisted, but host Candy Crowley cornered the Mitt Romney surrogate into giving Obama a little bit of credit for Virginia’s lower-than-average unemployment rate.
“Did [the stimulus] help us in the short-run with health care and education and spending to balance the budget? Sure,” McDonnell said. “Does it help us in the long-term to really cut the unemployment rate. I’d say no.”
Crowley followed up: “So just a tiny bit of credit to the president?”
“Well sure,” the governor responded. “I think there are national policies that have had some impact.”
McDonnell’s argument — that Obama helped a little but not enough — contradicts Romney’s core 2012 message, which is that Obama has made the economy worse. It reflects the pitfalls of the overarching Republican message that the economy is lousy while many GOP governors elected in 2010 tout improvements in their states.
But McDonnell also did his best to attack Obama — specifically his energy policies and “over-burdensome” regulations — and make the case for his candidate.
As Think Progress reported back in 2010, when McDonnell was out there taking credit for his state's economy and their ability to balance their budget: Despite His Anti-Government Rhetoric, Gov. McDonnell’s Budget Surplus Results From Government Assistance:
While most states are experiencing debilitating budget deficits, Virginia is “feeling flush” after turning a $1.8 billion deficit into a $403.2 million budget surplus at the close of the fiscal year. In a celebratory speech before the Virginia legislature Thursday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) credited higher tax revenue, state agencies’ fiscal responsibility, and serious budget cuts for the state’s ability “to balance the books.”
McDonnell’s victory tour continued with a stop on the Fox Business network to tout “fiscal prudence and conservative budgeting” as “the key” to his surplus. When enamored host Gerri Willis asked him whether Washington “could learn something from Virginia,” McDonnell replied he hoped his fiscal responsibility in Richmond “would be a model for Washington” [...]
McDonnell’s “prudence” would be a shining example for the federal government if he hadn’t relied on one important contributor: the federal government. According to a Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis report released this week, last year’s Recovery Act provided $2.5 billion in stimulus relief to “maintain crucial services for [Virginia] citizens” and “help close the state’s budget shortfall in 2010-2012.” Virginia legislators relied on $1.3 billion in enhanced Medicaid funding, $1 billion in funding for K-12 and higher education, $39 million for public safety, and $200 million in general support to reduce “what would otherwise have been a $5.4 billion budget hole.”
And here's more from Blue Virginia on McDonnell's interview today: Video: McDonnell Grudgingly Admits Obama Economic Policies Helped Virginia.:
Also, if you look back historically, note that Virginia's unemployment is always lower than the national unemployment rate, going back pretty much forever. For instance, in May 1998 it was 1.6 percentage points lower, in November 2000 it was 1.7 percentage points lower, and in June 2003 it was 2.0 percentage points lower. What else is new, in other words?
The point is simple: Virginia's unemployment rate is always lower than the national average, mostly for structural reasons, particularly the large federal - civilian and military - government presence in our state, plus the huge amount of federal largesse Virginia receives, which makes Virginia among the states most dependent on federal largesse for its prosperity. Let me repeat that: Virginia is one of the states in America that benefits the most, on net, from federal largesse. Same thing with most "red states." Some of those red states, like Texas and North Dakota, also have benefited from $100 per barrel oil prices, and the fact that oil production has boomed under President Obama, but don't expect Lyin' T-Bob to mention any of those facts.
The bottom line: Virginia's lower unemployment rate relative to the national average since Bob McDonnell became governor in January 2010 has had absolutely nothing to do with Bob McDonnell's policies. To the contrary, it's in spite of McDonnell's austerity/all-cuts-no-investments approach, and thanks to heavy federal "stimulus" spending which disproportionately benefited Virginia. Of course, you wouldn't expect any gratitude from Bob McDonnell for that, since Democrats were 100% responsible for it (with Republicans voting en masse against it), but at least he could admit the factual reality of the situation? Nah, who am I kidding?!?
Transcript of their exchange via CNN:
CROWLEY: Let me talk to you a little bit about the swing state of Virginia.
CROWLEY: And I want to show our viewers your unemployment rate, which has basically stayed two to three points below the national unemployment rate. It's a success story really.
MCDONNELL: You can keep that up for awhile.
CROWLEY: OK, yes. You like this, I understand that . But even as you embrace it as a Republican governor, does it not make it difficult for Mitt Romney, who has the same problem in other swing states, to come in and say the economy is terrible and, you know, you need to elect a new president, because Virginia is doing very well under President Obama. MCDONNELL: Yes, I don't think it undermines his argument at all for two reasons. One is as well as we've been fortunate to do with the lowest unemployment in the Southeast, I tell people, think how much better we'd do if we had President Romney.
And number two, I think that there's something going on with Republican governed states. Seven out of the 10 states, Candy, nationwide, that have the lowest unemployment rates, Republican governed states. Eleven out of the 15 --
CROWLEY: Do you credit President Obama at all for the good fortune Virginia has? He's done nothing at all to help you all?
MCDONNELL: Well, I would ask you, what would you point to that would lead you to say that that unemployment -- the only thing I can say is he had a nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus, and that was one-time spending. Did it help us in the short run with health care and education spending to balance the budget? Sure.
Does it help us in the long term to really cut the unemployment rate? I'd say no. But we have done a lot of things. Republicans and Democrats in Virginia doing some things I requested on economic development and targeted tax cuts and other things that I think have made a difference.
So I'd say Republican governors are doing some things that are making a difference and that's why I'm trying to get more of them this year.
CROWLEY: So just a tiny bit of credit to the president?
MCDONNELL: Well, sure. I think there's national policies that is have had some impact, but I can tell you this, if we didn't have all these attacks on Virginia's energy industry, we'd be in a lot better shape.
This president on coal, natural gas, nuclear, not letting us drill offshore, the Environmental Protection Agency's over-burdensome regulations on coal and natural gas have made it much more difficult for us. We'd be lower on the unemployment rate if we didn't have these policies.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about Governor Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts.
CROWLEY: When he -- during his four years there, the state was 47th in job creation. There was a net gain in payroll jobs over his four years of 1 percent, which is well below the net gain nationwide. Spending went up, the size of government went up.
What kind of record is that for a Republican to run on?
MCDONNELL: Well, I'd say it's better than that. He went from 47th down to 30th in job creation by the time he left office. He had a $3.6 billion deficit, too. Was able to cut that and left office with a $2 billion rainy day fund. I'd say that's pretty good.
CROWLEY: But in the end, you know, he was 47th throughout that whole four-year period, and he is selling himself as a businessman that knows how to create jobs and yet really didn't do that very well when he was in Massachusetts. You see the Democrats going after this. What's his defense here?
MCDONNELL: Well, the numbers I have is it went down to 30th by the time he left office nationwide in job creation. More importantly than that, Candy, is what he did in the private sector. Listen, he had a Democrat legislature.
That's a deep blue state and I think that managing the fiscal house and trying to create jobs during that time, he had to combat a Democratic legislature, but look what he did at Bain Capital, in the private sector as the executive director of the Olympics, turning that around, over 100,000 new jobs through venture capital and seeding companies with capital.
He knows how to create jobs in the private sector. He understands the American dream because he's lived it. And I'd say if President Obama had the kind of record Mitt Romney did, he'd be talking about it, but he can't run on it.