Massachusetts’s Record

Apparently one of the Sunday morning tiffs that made its way out of This Week‘s studios and into mainstream circulation is a dispute between dueling advisers over Romney’s Massachusetts job record. Here’s how the Hill summarizes it:

Fehrnstrom on ABC’s This Week said Romney had achieved a 4.7 percent unemployment rate while governor and would gladly compare his record to Obama’s.

“That’s close to full unemployment. What does that mean? It meant anybody who wanted a job had a pretty good chance of finding one. I have no doubt that President Obama would happily trade his 8.2 percent unemployment rate for Mitt Romney’s 4.7 percent,” he said.

Also appearing on ABC, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter continued those attacks saying that Massachusetts fell to “47th out of 50 in jobs creation” under Romney.

“Wages went down when they were going up in the rest of the country. He left his successor with debt and a deficit, and manufacturing jobs left that state at twice the rate as the rest of the country,” she said.

Cutter said that the state was “36 out of 50 states when Gov. Romney took office, and he was 47th when he left.”

Romney’s campaign however says that the governor managed to lower the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 4.7 percent during his tenure.

I think this entire dispute tells us a lot more about Massachusetts and not that much about Mitt Romney. The first important thing is that, besides this muddled jobs record, Massachusetts was and is and a low-unemployment, high-taxes, high services, well educated state. This has little to do with Mitt Romney one way or the other (with the obvious exception of Romneycare, an aspect of his record that he is not exactly eager to point to). But since Massachusetts wasn’t and isn’t a boom-and-bust homebuilding-or-energy state, it will have an unemployment rate that largely mirrors the country’s, except a little smoother and lower.

And so while it is true, in the words of Brooking Gary Bartless, quoted in Politifact, that “total payroll employment growth lagged far behind the experience of the rest of the country,” right now Massachussetts is doing much better than the rest of the country, and both of those phenomena are more or less Romney-independent.

What would be really useful is less parsing of a not-very-conclusive jobs record, and more discussion of the policies that Romney actually wants to pursue.