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Food fight! Huntsman and Romney jab over jobs

Washington Bureau

Another sign that we’re entering a more rough-and-tumble period in the 2012 presidential race: Jon Huntsman, seeking a way to energize his campaign, is hitting Mitt Romney hard on his job-creation record while Romney was governor of Massachusetts.

At a campaign event Monday evening in South Carolina, Huntsman, the former Utah governor, while not naming Romney directly, left no doubt whom he was talking about.

“When you look at the absolute increases in job creation, Utah led the way in the United States in terms of job creation,” Huntsman said, according to CNN. “That, compared and contrasted with certain other states like Massachusetts, which I will just pull out randomly, not first, but 47th.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Tom Hamburger recently examined Romney’s record while he served as Massachusetts governor’ from 2002 and 2006, concluding that “during the years he was governor, the state ranked among the last in the nation in job creation. The percentage increase in jobs — about 1% — was lower than in all but three states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In worse straits were Ohio, suffering the ongoing deterioration of its manufacturing infrastructure; Michigan, beset then by the decline of the auto industry; and Louisiana, devastated by Hurricane Katrina.”

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The response to Huntsman’s swipe from Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul, according to ABC News: “Mitt Romney created nearly 50,000 jobs as governor of Massachusetts and led his state to one of the most dramatic job market turnarounds in the country.”

That led to this retort from Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller:

“You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina,” Miller said. “The reality is Mitt Romney’s record on job creation was abysmal by every standard.”

Huntsman strategist John Weaver chipped in on Facebook, saying Romney “can’t run” from his record.

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The decision in the Huntsman camp to take a more active approach in bashing the GOP front-runner makes sense from a strategic standpoint. Romney and Huntsman court the same kind of moderate, high-income, business-oriented GOP voter. For Huntsman’s slow-starting bid to succeed, he has to start claiming some of Romney’s space.

The exchange comes at a time when Republican contender Tim Pawlenty has shown a greater willingness to go after his biggest rival: fellow Minnesotan Rep. Michele Bachmann. Pawlenty has been questioning Bachmann’s fitness for the presidency, saying that she has a “nonexistent” record of achievement.

Looks like it’s going to be a long, hot summer.


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