Donald Lambro
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, Romney's convention has to send that failed economy message into the minds of TV viewers and nail it to the door of Obama's Oval Office.

This will be the clarion call coming out of Tampa and from podium-pounding Republican Party leaders that will dominate just about every speech, video and interview. Romney and his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan 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 -- if it's delivered strongly and maybe even angrily -- that will reach a receptive electorate. The Post/ABC poll found that 72 percent of Americans say Obama's handling of the economy will be "a major factor" in their vote. Not Romney's tax returns, not abortion, not Bain Capital, not "Mediscare" ads, but Barack Obama's mishandling of the economy.

Not only does Romney have to lay out how bleak our country's future is under Obama's incompetent economic stewardship, he must also convince undecided swing voters he is uniquely qualified -- after a lifelong career of creating jobs -- to restore our economy to robust health.

And he has a great, uplifting story to tell that will be related at the convention about his success as a capital investor who has turned around 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, 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 its budget every 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 that have made Americans pessimistic about the future, Romney has to present an inspiring message of hope that things will get better with the right policies.

He has to talk reassuringly about how America has often faced severe economic challenges in its 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 have 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 has to 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 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 reported or given short shrift on the nightly news shows. Among them:

-- The economy is growing progressively weaker under Obama's policies, with its growth rate shrinking this year from 2 percent in the first quarter to a barely breathing 1.5 percent in the second quarter.

-- The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last week that the economy is weaker than it previously forecast in January.

The CBO said that if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to return to their higher levels at year's end when they are due to expire (and 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.

-- 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 Obama: "The Great Recession officially ended three years ago, but most middle-class Americans are still feeling pinched. About six 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. The CBO says it expects the jobless rate to remain at more 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 last three years, only one in four 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.

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

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


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.