Donald Lambro

But who really deserves the credit for the job gains we have seen in recent months? Obama is taking credit for the creation of over 200,000 jobs in January, though that's a stretch at best.

What policies can he point to that has led to the modest job growth we've seen thus far? His $800 billion spending stimulus bill in 2009 that pumped money into hundreds of federal and state agencies to create so-called "shovel ready jobs"? Many economists have dismissed that as a failure, producing relatively few permanent jobs.

The 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax that will expire at the end of this year put additional money into American paychecks, but it hasn't directly produced many jobs, either.

Outside of these two initiatives, there have been no real major economic growth plans to speak of. Obama said the unemployment rate would be below 8 percent by now, but that hasn't materialized.

The White House brags that over the past three years he has created millions of jobs. But his record pales into insignificance when compared to previous presidents who battled recessions.

After President Reagan's across-the-board tax rate cuts in 1981, as America fell into a severe two-year recession -- with unemployment climbing to nearly 11 percent -- the economy took off like a rocket. It grew by 4.5 percent in 1983, and by 8 percent plus in some quarters.

Obama is crowing about 243,000 jobs last month, but the Reagan economy created more than one million jobs in September of 1983, and almost 3.5 million jobs for the entire year.

Employment growth under Obama's policies last year: 1.8 million.

"Looking ahead to 2012, Obama could replicate the 243,000 jobs created in January over each of the next 11 months and still not approach Reagan's total for 1984 of 3.9 million," reports economics writer Charles Riley on the CNNMoney web site.

As to who deserves credit for the jobs that are being created thus far, former governor Mitt Romney points to the business community and American workers for doing the heavy lifting while Obama bickered with Congress.

"This president has not helped the process, he's hurt it," Romney said last week. The economy "has taken a lot longer than it should have to come back, in part because of the policies of this administration. For that, the president deserves the blame that he'll receive in this campaign."

The West Wing is praying that the economy will further improve this year to strengthen Obama's weak 46 percent job approval score as measured by the Gallup Poll. As of now, he is tied with Romney in Gallup's general election matchup.

But Obama's feeble growth rates and tepid job creation are not enough to move unemployment levels to a normal range, economists say.

"The economy must add 13 million jobs over the next three years, 361,000 each month, to bring unemployment down to 6 percent," says University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.

By March of the election year "all winning presidents in the modern era" had job approval ratings over 50 percent, Gallup says. Next month's numbers could very well tell us whether Obama will be another one-term president.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.