Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell addresses the Republican National Convention… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
TAMPA, Fla. – They could not resist. One by one, Republican governors of three presidential battleground states took the floor at the party’s national convention and touted recent job gains in their states – not Mitt Romney’s preferred message.
First up was Gov. John Kasich of Ohio: 122,000 jobs created since he took office last year, he boasted, and a state that has leaped from 48th to fourth in job creation.
INTERACTIVE MAP: Tally up the battleground states
Next came Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia: “Over the last two years, with Republicans and Democrats working together, our unemployment rate is down 20% to 5.9%," he said. “We've added 151,000 net new jobs.”
Finally, there was Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “Like many places across the country, Wisconsin lost more than 100,000 jobs from 2008 to 2010,” he said. “Unemployment during that time topped out at over 9%. But because of our reforms, Wisconsin has added thousands of new jobs, and our unemployment rate is down from when I first took office.”
Obama’s reelection team was delighted – particularly with Walker.
“Highlighting how unemployment is dropping, the economy is growing, and small businesses are adding jobs, his message tonight was vastly at odds with how Mitt Romney talks down the economy,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in an email to the media.
Her subject line: “We Couldn’t Have Said It Better Ourselves, Gov. Walker.”
But not all was lost for the Republican presidential nominee, whose joint appearances with all three governors in their states have showcased the clash between his political needs and theirs.
Yes, the governors took credit for what they portrayed as a robust economic recovery in each of their states. But they also took pains to stay on message by stressing how much better things could be if Romney was president.
Kasich held up Ohio as an example of what happens when Republican principles of limited government, lower taxes and decreased regulation are applied, saying Romney would do the same.
“Just like what Mitt Romney’s going to face,” he said, “the actions that we took were not always easy, and the actions that we took were not always popular, but you know what? When you get yourself into public service, you must lead and you must do what’s necessary.”
McDonnell hammered Obama for trillions of dollars in federal debt and unemployment above 8% for 42 months, saying, “the EPA is the Employment Prevention Agency.”
“Too many Americans are looking for work,” he said, “because this president's policies simply haven't worked.”