For the most part, Republicans responded to the good jobs report this morning with quiet bemusement. They don’t want to say it’s encouraging, because Republicans don’t want to give the impression that the economy is improving. GOP officials and candidates don’t want to seem discouraged either, for fear of looking like they’re rooting against the country.

One Republican presidential candidate tried to split the difference.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, campaigning in New Hampshire, managed to claim credit for Republicans.

Santorum, who has harshly criticized Obama on the economy, said he was “very gratified” that hiring had picked up but suggested the boost was tied to voters’ optimism that a Republican would win the White House. “There’s a lot of concern still,” he added. [emphasis added]

Oh my.

I rather doubt even Santorum believes this, but in case anyone’s inclined to accept such nonsense, the idea that employers would start hiring hundreds of thousands of workers in December 2011 based on vague political expectations about the party of a president who might take office in January 2013 is … how do I put this gently … stark raving mad.

I’m not unsympathetic to the GOP’s plight here. When someone sees a strong political benefit to economic suffering, it’s hard to know what to say when an economic recovery starts to pick up steam.

But that’s hardly an excuse for Santorum’s nonsense.

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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.