Mitt Romney says his administration would lower the unemployment rate to 6 percent by the end of his first term.
“I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower,” Romney says in a Time magazine interview.
When Obama took office in January 2009, unemployment stood at 7.8 percent and rose throughout the year, peaking at 10 percent in October. It’s been slowly declining since, hitting 8.1 percent in April, although job growth has slowed in recent months.
“This is a President who spends his time blaming other people for the fact that he has been unsuccessful in turning around this economy,” Romney says in the Time interview. “And I think the reason you’re seeing across the country, people saying they’d like to try someone new, is because they believe this President, while he may be a nice guy, is simply not up to the task of helping guide an economy.”
Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt pushed back immediately.
"Romney moved the goalposts in just a matter of weeks,” LaBolt said in a conference call with reporters. “He said 4 percent a couple weeks ago."
In May, Romney said “anything under 4 percent [unemployment] is nothing to celebrate.”
LaBolt questioned how Romney intended to “get to 6 percent without supporting some of the president’s programs” and said "government economists have been clear” that under their projections the jobless rate was already expected to fall below that figure.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the unemployment rate will drop to 5.3 percent by the end of 2016.
“My preference would be to have the opportunity to do that after the election as opposed to have the President in a lame-duck session try and create a solution that may not be in keeping with the new administration,” Romney says.
Speaking before The Latino Coalition in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Romney continued to hammer the president over what he says are policies that are unfriendly to business.
“Sadly, President Obama has decided to attack success,” Romney said. “It’s no wonder so many of his own supporters are calling on him to stop this war on job creators. Make no mistake, when I am president, you won’t wake up every day and wonder if the president is on your side. In recent days we’ve heard a lot about business from the president, and if you’re feeling like you deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, I can’t blame you.”
Polls show voters rank the economy as the most important issue in the upcoming elections.
Some Republicans allege current unemployment figures break a prediction by the White House that the jobless rate wouldn’t top 8 percent after the passage of stimulus measures early in his administration. Fact-checking group Politifact, however, says that claim is mostly false, and stems from a report by two economic advisers that was couched in uncertainty, and not from Obama.
In recent days, the Obama campaign has hit back at Romney's claims that he can turn around the economy by focusing on his career at Bain Capital, saying that a career spent maximizing profits for a private-equity firm doesn’t give him the experience he needs to create jobs to boost the nation's economy.
This story was updated at 4:29 p.m.