Sen. McConnell: Obama made economy worse

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said if the election were held today, President Obama would likely be defeated.

McConnell says Republicans have a simple message to defeat Obama: that his policies have actually made the economy worse.

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“It will be a referendum on the president and his performance, and if the presidential election were held today, I think our theme would be: He made it worse,” the minority leader told reporters Wednesday morning at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama was stung by a disappointing report by the Labor Department that showed the economy added only 54,000 jobs in May and unemployment rose to 9.1 percent.

Senior White House officials vigorously dispute the narrative being spun by Republican leaders.

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has emphasized that the private sector has added more than 2.1 million jobs over the past 15 months. Democrats also argue the economy was shedding between 500,000 and 800,000 jobs a month in the final three months of the Bush administration.

But McConnell thinks Obama will bear the brunt of the blame for the sluggish economy.

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“I think the president is in tough shape,” he said. “Look at how far Romney bounced up in the polls.”

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Romney leading Obama 49 percent to 46 among registered voters.

“The president is in a very weak position politically, today. We don’t know what it will look like in the fall of '12. But today the president is in a very weak position,” McConnell said.

“I think the president can be defeated if conditions in November of '12 are anything like they are today. He’s got a really tough race on his hands, and I’m confident we’re going to nominate someone who’s going to be a credible, believable alternative."

In October, McConnell declared his No. 1 goal is to oust Obama from office.

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," he told National Journal.

McConnell added: “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”

McConnell said complaints about the strength of the GOP presidential field are overblown and predicted that one of the candidates would get on a roll and begin to look formidable.

But McConnell is staying out of the race. He won’t throw his support to any candidate until the nominee is chosen.

Republican leaders have begun to hammer Obama on the theme of a weak economy in recent days.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) told reporters Tuesday that manufacturing CEOs have told White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley that Obama’s policies have hurt their sector.

“I think the president's chief of staff heard from manufacturers across America. When asked about the administration's job agenda, the manufacturers said to the president's chief of staff, 'He's making it worse,' " Alexander said.

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) told reporters: “It's pretty clear what this administration is doing is not working. It is making matters worse.

“Unemployment rate has gone up 37 percent. Gas prices have doubled. Health insurance premiums are up 19 percent and the debt is up 35 percent since this president took office,” he said.