- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 24, 2011

The former governors in the GOP presidential field tout their political accomplishments as proof they can lead the nation out of the economic doldrums, but when it comes to actual job numbers, the trio doesn’t hold a candle to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has emerged in recent polls as a strong conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

On Mr. Perry’s watch, which stretches back to December 2000 when he took the reins from then-President-elect George W. Bush, the Lone Star State has enjoyed a 11 percent increase in overall employment, adding more than 1 million jobs, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of seasonally adjusted employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the same period of time, the country shed more than 1 percent of its workforce, or roughly 1.5 million jobs.

Compared with his potential GOP rivals, the governor who comes closest to matching Mr. Perry’s record on jobs is Jon Huntsman Jr. During his four-plus years leading Utah, Mr. Huntsman presided over a 4.8 percent spike in jobs, while employment plummeted nationwide by 1.9 percent.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson, meanwhile, governed over a more dramatic 13.7 percent increase in overall job growth, though the record mirrored the strong 12 percent employment growth nationwide from 1995 to 2003.

Mr. Romney and Tim Pawlenty have shakier records on job creation.

During his 2003 to 2007 tenure in Massachusetts, Mr. Romney, the GOP front-runner at the moment, saw the state’s overall job growth increase by roughly 1.2 percent, while national employment grew by more than 5 percent.

Minnesota, meanwhile, lost almost 1 percent of its workforce, about 22,000 jobs, under Mr. Pawlenty, slightly worse than the national employment picture, which essentially remained flat.

It’s tricky determining just how big a role each of the governors played in creating jobs in their respective states, thanks to established political cultures and regional economic differences. Plus, Mr. Perry, Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Huntsman governed during the recession, while Mr. Romney and Mr. Johnson did not.

Still, their records on jobs represent a key part of their argument as to why they’re best equipped to get people back to work and to oust President Obama in the 2012 election.

“What you want if you are running for president is a compelling narrative that says that you can be effective, and if you have job creation on your resume, it just helps you build that narrative,” said John Feehery, a GOP strategist.

Pia M. Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said Mr. Perry benefits from Texas’ booming energy sector, near-record oil prices and the fact that the state didn’t get walloped by the housing crises, which partially can be credited to the relatively conservative lending practices of the state’s banks. She said the state’s strongest employment sectors have been in professional and business services, health and energy.

“Those also are some of the largest sectors,” she said. “So, the fact that they are growing 5 percent, 6 percent or 7 percent in Texas since 2009 — that’s a lot of jobs.”

Texas’ success story clashes with the ugly national narrative that threatens Mr. Obama’s hopes of securing a second term.

When Mr. Obama entered office in 2009, he inherited a struggling economy that had shed 3.6 million jobs in the final year of the Bush presidency.

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