Candidates play blame game with economy

Charles Babington; and Bill Barrow
Associated Press

Perry, Ga. – — One Republican highlights the nation’s lackluster recovery since the Great Recession. Less than an hour later, another GOP candidate from the same state gets attacked for it.

Candidates everywhere this midterm election season are struggling for ways to frame the state of the economy, ranked by voters as the most important issue. The result is a blame game that cuts in multiple directions depending on the contest — even, in one case, within the same state.

For example, Georgia Republican Senate nominee David Perdue doesn’t miss a chance to blame President Barack Obama and a Democratic-led Senate for the nation’s slow economic recovery.

“This president sold us a bill of goods,” Perdue told a raucous crowd at the Georgia state fairgrounds during a debate with Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn this week. “We have fewer working today than at any time since Jimmy Carter was president.”

Within moments, the state’s Republican governor, Nathan Deal, stood on the same stage while his Democratic challenger — Carter’s grandson — sharply blamed the governor for Georgia’s 8.1 percent unemployment rate, which in August was the nation’s highest.

“You have watched this economy in Georgia leave the middle class behind,” said Jason Carter, a state senator.

Even in states where rising unemployment might offer tempting targets, many candidates fear unintended consequences and political boomerangs if they delve too deeply into economic debates.

Democrats in Republican-run states worry that an emphasis on economic woes might reflect badly on Obama, and by extension, themselves. But Republicans in those same states often worry that highlighting a shaky economy will reflect badly on the GOP governor and other Republicans.

In many states, Republicans seem content to stick with their longtime favorite issue: attacking the president’s health care overhaul, widely known as “Obamacare.” And several Democrats want to distance themselves from Obama, which complicates any effort to tout an improving economy associated with him.

Unemployment plays a bigger role in races for governor, a post more directly associated with a state’s economy.

In Wisconsin, Democrat Mary Burke centers her challenge to GOP Gov. Scott Walker on his failed promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs. Wisconsin has the nation’s 17th-lowest unemployment rate, 5.6 percent.

In Georgia, Carter is trying to deny Deal a second term as governor.

Voters are left to decide who is responsible for the sluggish job growth in a state run by Republicans while the federal government is split between a GOP-run House and a Democratic-led Senate and White House.