Unemployment numbers force evolution in Paul Ryan’s stump speech

TOLEDO, Ohio -- What a difference a new unemployment report makes. Last week, after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report showing that the unemployment rate had dropped slightly, to 7.8% from about 8.1%, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were robbed of their ability to make a simple but powerful political point against President Obama, who said early in his first term that if he didn’t fix the economy, “then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” The Republicans had made a point of the long run of 8%-plus joblessness afflicting the country.

Ryan has been dealing with the slightly rosier picture by dropping his usual Obama critique and emphasizing other statistics about the state of the economy, focusing on the poverty rate and what some conservatives call the “real” unemployment rate, which — no surprise — is much higher than the latest government figure.

On Oct. 1, in front of the courthouse in Clinton, Iowa, Ryan made the unemployment argument against Obama this way:

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“You gotta understand, President Obama, he inherited a tough situation when he came into office, absolutely. Problem is, he didn’t fix any of these problems, we’re worse off. The Obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped. It failed because it was passed! Let’s not forget that. He came into Congress with one-party rule and he was able to pass all the things of his choosing and that’s what he did. Look at where we are now: We’ve had unemployment above 8%, 43 months in a row. He said if we passed his stimulus plan, if we borrow all this money, spend it on all these different groups and friends in Washington, unemployment would never even get to 8%, and our economy would be growing at 4% right now. Heh. It’s been above 8% ever since, and our economy is limping along in this country at 1.3%.”

On Monday, at a rally in Toledo, three days after the new numbers came out, Ryan had to tweak his language. Speaking to hundreds of people at an airport hangar before an evening rally at Oakland University, Ryan never mentioned the new unemployment figure. In fact, someone not listening very closely might think the unemployment picture had gotten worse rather than better. Here is what he said:

“President Obama came in four years ago, he inherited a tough situation, no two ways about that. Problem is, he didn’t make things better. Twenty three million today are struggling to find work. Five-and-a-half million Americans who used to try to find work gave up trying. We don’t even count these people anymore, That’s 5.5 million Americans that had a job that gave up trying to look for a job that our government doesn’t even count anymore. If we actually counted these people, the unemployment rate would be 11%. Fifteen percent of our fellow citizens, 15% of the men and women in this nation and the children in this nation are living in poverty today. It’s the highest rate in a generation. The economy is barely growing. It’s growing slower this year than it grew last year, which grew slower than the year before that.”

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