Romney repeats disputed charge, says again that Obama made recession worse

Republican presidential candidates work the crowd at the Fourth of July parade in Amherst, N.H., on Monday. At left: Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman shakes hands with Molly Graybill. At right: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. AP Photos/Jim Cole

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney works the crowd as he marches in the Fourth of July parade in Amherst, N.H., Monday, July 4, 2011.
AP Photo/Jim Cole

Days after denying he had made the inaccurate charge in the past, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Monday again said President Obama has made the recession worse.

"Our president has failed us. The recession is deeper because of our president," Romney told a cheering audience after shaking hands at a July 4th parade, adding, "it has seen an anemic recovery because of our president."

The economy was contracting as Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. It is now growing slowly.

"He made the recession worse and the recovery more anemic," Romney told reporters.

The comments come on the heels of a dust-up he created last Thursday, when he denied that he had ever accused Mr. Obama of making the recession worse, despite the fact that it has been a central theme of the first weeks of his 2012 campaign.

The Democratic National Committee immediately attacked Romney for changing his tune, releasing a video montage showing what he had repeatedly said interspersed with his denial that he had ever made the specious charge.

Economic growth is considered by economists to be the best overall measure of the economy's performance, and the data clearly shows a fragile economy that was falling off a cliff a couple years ago. In the last three months of 2008, just before Mr. Obama took office, the U.S. economy contracted at a 6.8 percent annualized pace, according to the Commerce Department.

In the first three months of 2009, which includes Mr. Obama's January 20, 2009 inauguration, the economy contracted at a 4.9 percent pace. The economy grew at a 1.9 percent annualized rate in the first three months of this year after growing at a 3.1 percent pace in the three months through last December.

And job growth, which is even more important for most voters, shows a similar story: weak but better than it was. The economy lost 820,000 jobs in January 2009 and continued to lose jobs every month through early 2010. Job creation in mid-2010 see-sawed between growth and loss until October, when there were 171,000 jobs created. The economy has added at least some jobs every month since, though just 54,000 jobs were added in May, the most recent month for which data is available.

These numbers are by no means stellar, but they clearly paint a picture that shows improvement from a very weak starting point. The unemployment rate, which economists consider a so-called lagging indicator, started at 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office and peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009. In May, the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, still considered too high by most economists.

At the July 4th event in Amherst, New Hampshire, Romney said the United States faces a host of challenges, including ballooning U.S. budget deficits, the rise of China and the resurgence of Russia.

"We face a lot of challenges, but there is no question in my mind, but the patriotism of the American people will rise to the occasion and overcome these challenges if we are led by people who will tell us the truth, who will live with integrity and know how to lead, and I will be one of those people with your help," Romney said.

Asked on Tuesday about Romney's charges, campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul pointed to the higher unemployment rate, rising gas prices and falling home prices as evidence the economy is in worse shape than when Mr. Obama took office.

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter»

    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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