Well we’re living here in Allentown

For all of his flaws as a candidate and officeholder, Mitt Romney understands how to play a political game. Indeed, it’s the driving motivations for his constant metamorphoses — Romney sees which way the winds are blowing, and matches his malleable convictions accordingly.

With this in mind, most voters are concerned about jobs, which leads Romney to focus on little else. With President Obama in Pennsylvania this week, the Republican frontrunner followed the president to the Keystone State, holding an event at the Allentown Metal Works plant. The facility went out of business not too long ago, and Romney wants voters to blame the president.

But as Dave Weigel explained, there’s are some rather dramatic flaws in Romney’s argument.

It’s smart for a challenger to pin every failure on the incumbent’s forehead. How much sense does it make? Well … the Metal Works had been reeling for years, as had so many industrial plants of its kind in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. It was failing; it was also brought down by stupidity.

Right. In the case of this specific plant, it appears that it was mismanagement, not governmental policy, that largely sealed its fate. That said, there was a governmental policy that might have helped keep its doors open.

As the local media reported, the owners of AMW expected to get more business from stimulus spending on construction etc. It didn’t happen. That’s something you can blame many Democrats for, but at what point does it connect to Romney’s business philosophy and his message? AMW’s only chance for survival was an infusion of capital from the government into local projects, something Romney opposed. Its collapse was classic creative destruction — there simply wasn’t business for the plant to do anymore. If you’re against bailouts, as Romney is, and you’re for bankruptcies and restructuring in failing industries, as Romney is, how exactly were you going to save AMW? You weren’t.

This is really important, because Romney is leading with his chin and hoping no one notices. Even if we put aside, for now, Romney’s truly atrocious record on job creation, his little press stunt this week falls apart rather quickly. The Allentown Metal Works plant wanted to take advantage of government pumping enough money into the private market to stay afloat. The stimulus wasn’t quite big enough, and the funding didn’t reach its offers, so it closed its doors.

But this doesn’t make Romney, the anti-jobs candidate, right in his assessment. Indeed, Romney’s preferred example makes Romney look worse.

Under Obama, Allentown Metal Works had a shot, but the liberal policy wasn’t quite ambitious enough. Under Romney, Allentown Metal Works had no shot, since there wouldn’t have been a liberal policy in the first place.

Romney held this event this week to make the president look bad. For anyone who cares about the substance, the accurate takeaway made the president look better.

Update: MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” has been on this story, too. It’s good to see some national outlets appreciate the larger context and significance of this.