Mitt Romney and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell campaign in Portsmouth, Va.,… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
"Welcome to Ohio," Mitt Romney told President Obama with more than a dash of sarcasm in an open letter on the eve of Obama’s rally Saturday in Columbus. "I have a simple question for you: Where are the jobs?"
Romney got an answer to that question last week from Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Campaigning for Romney outside the capital, the Republican governor could hardly have strayed further off message as he painted a bright picture of economic recovery in Ohio just as Romney was trying to do the opposite.
"We have a website called Ohio Means Jobs and there's probably about 80,000 jobs listed on there where there are openings," Kasich told college students meeting with him and Romney.
"Really?" a student asked in astonishment.
In scanning the website, Kasich said, "you're going to find a lot of real exciting opportunities."
Kasich is not the only Republican governor whose off-key boasts of a local jobs recovery have undercut the party's presumptive presidential nominee right before a Romney speech portraying the economy under Obama as dismal.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell offered the latest variation on Thursday as he introduced Romney at a rally in Portsmouth, Va.
"Welcome to the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast," McDonnell said.
As the audience cheered, Romney paused, then smiled and clapped his hands four times.
"That's good news," he muttered, ignoring the head wind that any good news on jobs creates for his campaign in a crucial swing state like Virginia.
"Now as good as that is," McDonnell continued, "imagine how much better off we’re going to be with President Mitt Romney."
As governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, Romney became a seasoned practitioner of putting the best spin on an anemic economic recovery. In his case, it was slow job growth in Massachusetts in the aftermath of the dot-com bust and 9/11.
But now that Romney is a presidential candidate pounding the Democratic president every day over the sluggish economy, he can only hope that Republican governors of battleground states will set aside their self-interest and join him in stressing the gloom.
It will be a struggle. At a Republican dinner outside Milwaukee in March, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told party loyalists that their state was on a solid path to recovery.
"The unemployment rate is now below 7% for the first time since 2008," said Walker, who faces a recall election next month. "We're headed in the right direction."
Minutes later, Romney stepped onto the same stage and lamented how high unemployment remained.
But it would be hard to top Kasich, who — unlike Walker — was actually campaigning for Romney when he marveled at Ohio's economic comeback last week at Otterbein University in Westerville.
After students shared some challenges they had faced in finding jobs to launch their careers, Kasich told them that Chase bank employs 23,000 people in Ohio.
"It probably shocks you, that kind of number," Kasich said. "It's stunning. I know they have openings."
With Romney seated next to him, the governor mentioned more job opportunities in a nearby Columbus suburb, New Albany, and plugged the “Ohio Means Jobs” website, which now lists 108,636 openings.
"There's a lot of really exciting things in the state where you can go work," Kasich said.
[For the Record, 10:10 a.m. May 7: A previous version of this post referred to the Virginia governor as Bob McConnell. His name is Bob McDonnell.]