- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fresh off news of the biggest U.S. job gain in nine months, policymakers and lawmakers took to the airwaves Sunday morning to offer their spin on the plodding economic recovery - and to say whether they praise or blame President Obama for it.

Govs. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Martin O’Malley of Maryland traded barbs on CNN’s “State of the Union” over whether Mr. Obama can take credit for the job growth, with Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, claiming it a victory for his party’s governors.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent, told David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the president needs to deal with the exploding national debt by vetoing the Bush-era tax cuts and adopting a plan to cut the deficit made by the bipartisan “Simpson-Bowles” commission Mr. Obama assembled.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, said Mr. Obama has the right ideas but needs to raise taxes, cut spending and invest in industry. And Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, warily said he’s not ready to celebrate.

“You know, in today’s parlance, the economy is down 30 points, and we just kicked a field goal,” Mr. Daniels said, speaking from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis a few hours before the Super Bowl. “I think I’d keep the champagne on ice.”

The Friday jobs report showed 243,000 jobs were added to the economy in January and unemployment fell to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent in December - down from a high of 9.1 percent in August.

The job growth spells good news for Mr. Obama’s re-election chances as he prepares to defend himself against Republicans blaming him for months of high unemployment.

But if history is proven right, he needs the jobless rate to fall to 7.2 percent by November. No sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has won re-election with an unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent.

If unemployment continues to fall, it will be harder for Republicans to leverage the economic climate against Mr. Obama. While Mr. Daniels expressed brief optimism about the job growth, he mainly slammed the president for stifling enterprise and small business growth and called the economic outlook for the rest of the year “gloomy.”

“Two-thirds of the jobs lost have not been regained yet,” Mr. Daniels said. “The participation rate is extraordinarily low, the underemployment rate is very high. And I’m as glad as anyone to see one good month, but it’s way too early for a celebration.”

But none of the lawmakers had much good to say about the Republicans vying to face Mr. Obama this year - with the exception of Mr. McDonnell, an avid supporter of Mitt Romney.

Mr. Bloomberg said the candidates aren’t offering enough specifics about how they’ll deal with the national deficit.

“What disturbs me is when you listen to all of the rhetoric in the campaign, nobody is really talking about how they are going to close an $8 trillion deficit over the next 10 years,” he said. “Where is the revenue going to come from?”

Mr. Daniels agreed, saying it’s not enough for Republicans to criticize Mr. Obama’s policies.

“I side with those who yearn for a more positive campaign,” Mr. Daniels said. “In order to earn our way back to leadership, it’s not enough to point out failures that are visible to anyone. We have to offer a constructive program that promises to restore upward mobility in this country.”

And Mr. Patrick called the primary season “dismal.”

“We do need to see ourselves as in this together, and it worries me that so much of the national Republican rhetoric has been about elevating division itself to the top of their political agenda,” he said.