- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has to do two things really well at his convention: Lay out in dramatic terms how bad the Obama economy is and demonstrate that he is the candidate who can fix it.

After Monday’s front-page Washington Post/ABC News poll showing more than 80 percent of Americans now say the economy is poor, and 70 percent who say our country is seriously off-track, Mr. Romney’s convention has to pound that failed economy message into the minds of TV viewers and nail it to the door of President Obama’s Oval Office.

This will be the clarion call coming out of Tampa, Fla., and from podium-pounding Republican Party leaders that will dominate just about every speech, video and interview. Mr. Romney and his vice presidential running mate will make the recession-leaning economy the centerpiece of their addresses that will set and shape the course of the rest of the presidential campaign.

It’s a message that — if it’s delivered strongly and maybe even angrily — will reach a very receptive electorate. The Post/ABC poll found that 72 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy will be “a major factor” in their vote. Not Mr. Romney’s tax returns, not abortion, not Bain Capital, not Mediscare ads, but Mr. Obama’s mishandling of the economy.

Not only does Mr. Romney have to lay out how bleak our country’s future is under Mr. Obama’s incompetent economic stewardship, he must persuade undecided swing voters he is uniquely qualified with his lifetime business career in job creation to restore our economy to robust health.

He has an uplifting story to tell that will be related at the convention about his success as a capital investor who turned dozens of mismanaged, failing or struggling businesses into major job creators.

Unlike the remedial occupant of the White House who had no executive experience and has never even run a lemonade stand, Mr. Romney knows how to manage and how to lead, how to grow businesses and make a profit to boot. As governor of Massachusetts, he balanced the budget for four years and left office with unemployment at 4.7 percent. This is not a guy who failed Economics 101.

Despite the profound economic problems we face, which have made Americans very pessimistic about the future, Mr. Romney must present an inspiring, optimistic message of hope that things will get better with the right policies.

He needs to talk reassuringly about how America has often faced severe economic challenges in her history and has not only overcome them, but grown more prosperous than before. He has to make the case that the policies of lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise have not failed us in the past. We failed them by listening to liberal pols who were peddling dependency, profligacy, overregulation, increasing debt and overtaxation in every nook and cranny of our economy. At the same time, he must reassure Americans he has the experience and know-how to lead us out of this mess, that things will get better and that help is on the way.

But the real heavy lifting of this convention will be in telling the unvarnished truth about how Mr. Obama and his administration have weakened our economy, hurt the middle class, suffocated job creation and pushed us to the brink of another recession. The Republicans have a lot of economic data to throw at the White House, reports that either aren’t circulated or given short shrift on the nightly TV-news shows. Among them:

The economy is growing progressively weaker under Mr. Obama’s policies, with its growth rate shrinking this year from 2.0 percent in the first quarter to a barely breathing 1.5 percent in the second quarter.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said last week that the economy is weaker than it previously forecast in January. CBO said that if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to lapse and rates return to their higher levels at year’s end when they are due to expire (and Mr. Obama says he will not sign any bill that extends the two top income-tax rates), it would cost the economy 2 million jobs and push it over a cliff into a recession.

Mr. Obama talks a lot about protecting the middle class, but he has flatly failed to do that to any significant degree. A report out last week from Sentier Research, a company headed by two former Census Bureau analysts, says that median household income has fallen sharply since the recession ended three years ago.

Median income is now 7.2 percent below where it was in December 2007 when the recession began. Between June 2009 and June 2012, median household income fell 4.8 percent to $50,964.

A Pew Research Center survey last week offered still more evidence of the middle-class decline under Mr. Obama. “The Great Recession officially ended three years ago, but most middle-class Americans are still feeling pinched. About 6 in 10 (62 percent) say they had to reduce household spending in the past year because money was tight, compared with 53 percent who said so in 2008,” Pew said.

Unemployment rose to 8.3 percent last month amid indications that it will continue rising in the coming months. Weekly unemployment-benefit claims were up this month, revealing little or no progress in the job market. CBO says it expects the jobless rate to remain higher than 8 percent for the rest of the year, if not beyond.

A Labor Department analysis released last Saturday reported that among workers who lost a good-paying job over the past three years, only 1 in 4 found another job that paid about the same. The rest could not find jobs, stopped looking and dropped out of the labor force, or took lower paying or part-time jobs.

Mr. Obama is going around the country boasting of saving General Motors with his bailout, but U.S. manufacturing is weakening. Durable goods orders dropped in July for the fourth time in five months.

This is Mr. Obama’s dismal economic record after nearly four years in office. This is the failed performance upon which he asks voters to give him another four years.

This is the sorry record Mr. Romney and the Republican convention must present to the nation this week with this ringing call to arms: Unemployed and underemployed Americans are not going to find full-time jobs again until Barack Obama loses his.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.