- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

President Obama traveled to economically troubled Youngstown, Ohio, on Tuesday to accuse Republicans of hypocrisy for attacking his economic stimulus plan.

But in a preview of November’s election message, the GOP hit back by noting unemployment has only gone up since Mr. Obama took office.

With unemployment still hovering near 10 percent, and with the White House acknowledging it could climb by Election Day, Mr. Obama’s challenge is clear: Convince voters the economy is improving, even though the clearest evidence in front of them — the jobless rate — shows otherwise.

“The fact that the president has come to cheerlead the ‘stimulus’ in a city where unemployment is 15.1 percent demonstrates just how out of touch Washington Democrats are with the harsh realities many communities are facing today,” House Republican Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio said in a statement. “During this time of hardship, the last thing the people of the Mahoning Valley need is more of the president’s job-killing agenda that is only making matters worse.”


In a speech given after a tour of a local tube-manufacturing plant that received stimulus funds, Mr. Obama lashed out at his critics, deriding some of them for voting against the $862 billion package of spending and tax cuts only to celebrate stimulus projects in their districts later.

“These folks who opposed this every step of the way, predicting nothing but failure, they know it’s working because — this always puts a smile on my face — even as they’ve tried to score political points attacking these members of Congress, a lot of them go home and then they claim credit for the very things they voted against,” Mr. Obama said.

“If we had done things the way they wanted to go, we’d be in a deeper world of hurt than we are right now,” he added.

Both parties expect the GOP to make some gains in Congress during this fall’s midterm elections, but the economy’s performance will likely help determine the size of those gains.

Despite four months of consecutive job growth — including the addition of 290,000 jobs last month — unemployment nationwide has remained just under 10 percent, actually climbing two-tenths of a percent last month to 9.9 percent. Mr. Obama has tried to thread a small political needle by acknowledging the pain of those still unable to find work while he points out signs the economy is improving.

He and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have continued to cite projects funded by the stimulus bill ahead of this fall’s mid-term elections. At the same time, Republicans — who have overwhelmingly opposed Mr. Obama’s economic policies — have hammered the administration over reports of stimulus waste and its errant prediction that unemployment wouldn’t exceed 8 percent if the economic plan passed.

In e-mail to reporters Tuesday, the conservative House Republican Study Committee pointed out an administration projection in February 2009 that Ohio would gain 133,000 jobs because of the stimulus bill. Instead, the group argued that the “Obama job deficit” in Ohio stands at 294,500 since the state has lost 161,500 jobs between February 2009 and March of this year.

Addressing reporters on Air Force One last week, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said the jobless rate bumped up last month in part because many of the nation’s longterm unemployed were once again actively looking for work as the job situation brightens.

“The president’s view is that creating jobs isn’t something that he’s doing for the midterm elections,” Mr. Burton said. “He’s doing it because without jobs, the economy is not going to be strong, Americans aren’t going to be able to make their mortgage payments, pay for college tuition, [or] pay for their energy consumption.”