The bad news for Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney is that the central focus of his campaign — job creation — happens to be his weakest issue. In both the public and private sector, Romney’s record on jobs is just atrocious.

The good news for Romney is that the bad news isn’t well known, and he’s so far presented himself as having a strong jobs record without the public simply laughing in his face.

Slowly, this is beginning to change. Take Jon Huntsman’s new offensive, for example.

At a South Carolina fundraiser last night, Huntsman, the former Obama administration official, took note of Romney’s failure on jobs during his one term. Without mentioning any names, Huntsman noted that Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation on job creation during Romney’s tenure.

The frontrunner’s campaign responded that Romney is “proud” of his record, which included a “dramatic” turnaround in the job market. Huntsman’s team didn’t flinch.

Huntsman Spokesperson Tim Miller quickly shot back with a fiery tone never before seen by the campaign. He told ABC News: “”You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

“The reality is Mitt Romney’s record on job creation was abysmal by every standard. Governor Huntsman will run on his record of cutting taxes, reducing regulation, and passing free market health care which resulted in Utah becoming the #1 state for job creation. We assume Mitt Romney will continue to run away from his record.”


This is pretty interesting from a variety of angles. Most notably, it’s really the first meaningful shot at Romney we’ve seen all year — and it’s coming from a candidate who recently promised to never go negative.

But perhaps most importantly, Huntsman’s criticism is accurate. Romney’s record on jobs really is “abysmal by every standard.”

If Huntsman keeps this up, other candidates join in, and Romney develops a reputation for being the anti-jobs candidate, it’s a real problem for the frontrunner’s campaign. He already has to try to convince GOP primary voters to overlook his record as a pro-choice, one-term moderate who supported gay rights, gun control, immigration reform, and a center-left health care reform plan.

Can Romney credibly ask voters to overlook the jobs issue, too?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.