I think it's safe to say the Romney campaign is going for the kill with its latest attack on Rick Perry. The former Massachusetts Governor has already gotten a fair amount of mileage out of attacking his Texan rival from the left on Social Security, and from the right on immigration, but this new spot strikes at the heart of the Perry campaign's raison detre -- jobs, jobs, jobs:
This is an audacious move from Team Romney, particularly in light of Mitt's checkered jobs record in Massachusetts (which wasn't much to write home about, but also wasn't as bleak as Democrats claim). But is the ad itself fair? As far as I can tell, it cites credible sources to support its bombshell claims, and doesn't appear to take Perry completely out of context -- a nasty trick Team Perry has deployed against Romney on more than one occasion. That being said, the central premise of the ad rings false, and for good reason. Romney is trying to accomplish what might have been Democrats' very tall task if Perry had clinched* the GOP nomination: Diminishing and disparaging Texas' job growth.
The spot's most striking image is a tumbleweed blowing along a deserted Texas highway. That's rich. It's intended to create the impression that Rick Perry's Texas is something of a depressed ghost town. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the recession began, desperate job seekers have flocked to Texas at a clip of roughly 1,000 people per day. And they're finding work, too. Despite a huge population influx and a bruising national recession, Texas' unemployment rate remains below the national average. How remarkable has the Lone Star State's economic performance been? Read this Political Math analysis (written by a self-professed non Perry supporter), and marvel. One telling data point:
This chart depicts what Texas' unemployment rate would be if three-quarters of a million people -- many of whom were jobless -- hadn't barged into the state looking for jobs during this recession. Texas absorbed all of those folks, and still has an unemployment rate nearly a full point below Obama's national average. The data presented also dismantles other challenges to the "Texas Miracle," including the claims that most of state's new jobs are very low-paying, and that Texas' "luck" is predominantly due to a flourishing oil industry. Read the whole thing.
But what about George Stephanopolous' assertion that nearly two-thirds of Texas job gains were in the public sector? First, that statistic cherry-picks certain years out of Perry's tenure as Governor. Fine. Second, the fact remains that over the last full decade, Texas has netted more private sector jobs than the other 49 states combined. In the last five years, Texas was responsible for 73 percent of all job growth in America. During that same period, the similarly-situated state of California lost over a million jobs:
And what to make of the ad's eye-opening statistic regarding illegal immigrants? Have illegals really accounted for almost half of Texas' job growth since 2007? The Texas Public Policy Foundation examined that figure, and found it badly wanting (The rest of the piece picks apart the CIC study in even greater detail):
CIS used faulty methodology to make its main point. It compared a net increase in jobs in Texas over a four-year period with a gross increase in employed newly arrived immigrants in Texas. This is truly an apples-to-oranges comparison; it is as if a report claimed that Google is a larger company than Apple because its market capitalization of $162 billion exceeds Apple’s annual revenues of $100 billion.
In short, Romney's new ad is dubious on the details, and laughable in its overall narrative. Perry's biggest problem, frankly, is that he seems incapable of consistently, specifically, and succinctly pushing back against these misleading numbers when he's confronted with them -- both in interviews and debates. That's not a minor shortcoming, it's a monumental weakness -- especially since the Democrats are preparing a vituperative and relentless smear campaign against the eventual nominee. If Perry's support were holding steady, and if he'd proven adept at fluently defending his record, running this sort of ad might make more sense. Instead, it comes off as an borderline desperate attempt to bury a candidate who seems to be in the process of burying himself. Not the Romney campaign's finest moment, I'd say.