Saturday, November 1st, 2014
Half-True
Portman
"Under Lee Fisher Ohio has lost nearly 400,000 jobs."

Rob Portman on Monday, September 13th, 2010 in a campaign video

Rob Portman raps Lee Fisher for Ohio's job losses while he was the state's development director

This Rob Portman campaign video raps Lee Fisher's performance as Ohio's "job czar."

Editor's note: This item originally was rated as Mostly True, but was downgraded when job loss figures in it were updated.

Like the refrain of a ubiquitous pop song, the phrase -- "Ohio lost 400,000 jobs on his watch" -- is playing over and over on the airwaves. And like any good lyric, the phrase is catchy.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich is singing it about incumbent governor Ted Strickland, and the Republican Governors Association has made the phrase the central theme of three commercials attacking Strickland on behalf of Kasich.

And U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman sings it about his Democratic challenger Lee Fisher, who is Ohio’s lieutenant governor and former head of the state’s economic development department, in a statewide ad titled "Job Czar."

"Under Lee Fisher Ohio has lost nearly 400,000 jobs," is the key line in Portman's ad.

The phrase has been aired so often, it's approaching the status of an oldie. Whether it's a goodie is the question.

The Republicans are referring to the state’s net job losses since Strickland and Fisher took office in January 2007. Ohio lost about 390,000 non-farm jobs from January 2007 through July of this year, the latest figure available. So Republicans are largely accurate when they say Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs since January of 2007. Job losses were as high as 438,900 at the end of February of this year.

When we reviewed the Republican Governor’s Association rendition that focused on Strickland, we rated it Half True. We said then that the claim hit a clunker when Republicans suggest that the governor was responsible for the job losses.

Ohio has been losing jobs since January of 2000 - 568,300 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those, 403,800 came in the manufacturing sector.

It’s also worth noting, since campaigns are trying to blame those in charge when the state lost jobs, that Republicans held the offices of governor and lieutenant governor seven of those years and held both houses of the legislatures until January 2009. Republican George W. Bush was president for eight of those years.

Strickland has argued for the administration that Ohio - like Michigan and other Midwest states -- was especially hurt by forces beyond his control, namely a recession and the decline of manufacturing. Ohio and the nation have suffered through two recessions, one that started in 2001 and one that started in 2008, which triggered an avalanche of job losses here and was considered a global economic crisis.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican elected in 2004 who is in his second term, says the same thing, at least he did July 22 during an interview in Cleveland. What made Daniels’ comments worth highlighting is that the rising GOP star was in town campaigning with Kasich. The two were beating up on Strickland for the state’s job losses.

But Daniels became a bit defensive when questioned about Hoosier State less than stellar performance in the last several years. Indiana lost 174,000 net jobs since January of 2007.

Echoing the sentiments of other governors in defense of their states’ economic woes, he said, "To some extent, everybody is at the mercy of national and global events, and we are no different."

But this claim that targets Fisher has a slightly different tune.

The ad that targeted Strickland phrased the job loss as happening "on his watch," which we think implies he is at fault. This claim phrased the job loss as happening "under Lee Fisher," which we think is more neutral language that conveys the idea that it occurred while he was the director of the agency.

Also, Fisher’s role here was different than that of Strickland. While Strickland, as governor, may set policy for the administration to follow, Fisher held a hands-on position of control in the Department of Development.

Consider it this way: It might be unfair to blame the high school principal for unruly behavior in a classroom, but reasonable to hold the teacher in charge of that class to a higher standard.

That the ad focuses on Fisher as the state's development director raises another issue. Fisher stepped down as development director in February 2009. BLS data shows that during his tenure Ohio had a net loss of about 255,000 jobs; a significant number of jobs, although not as many as the Portman ad states. The higher jobs figure in the ad reflects net jobs lost into this year.

Still, at a time when Ohio lost thousands of jobs, Fisher was in charge of the state agency most responsible for bringing new jobs to Ohio. That doesn’t mean he’s responsible for the job losses, but he was in charge of the department most capable of addressing the problem.

We find Portman’s claim in his Job Czar ad to be Half True.