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On the Stump: Checking Romney's Nevada speech

Bill Adair
By Bill Adair February 8, 2012

First in an occasional series fact-checking the speeches of the presidential candidates.

Ann Romney took care of the thank yous. She praised the Nevada volunteers, the leaders of the state campaign and offered "a special shout-out to Dema Guinn," the wife for former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn.

The pleasantries out of the way, she introduced her husband Mitt Romney ("the next president of the United States ...."), who rattled off a litany of complaints about the current president.

He said President Barack Obama promised in 2008 to help Nevada's sagging economy, but four years later, the state is still suffering.

"Well, Mr. President, Nevada has had enough of your kind of help," Romney said.

His speech after he won the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 4, 2012, included stock lines that have become a regular part of his campaign appearances, plus one we hadn't heard before. We are putting the claims to the Truth-O-Meter as part of a new series fact-checking the stump speeches of the presidential candidates.

He began his speech at the Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa with a line we had not checked before: "Four years ago, candidate Obama came to Nevada, promising to help. But after he was elected, his help was telling people to skip coming here for conventions and meetings."

Really? Obama urged a boycott of Sin City?

We checked the record and found that's not exactly what Obama said. He made a couple of comments that upset Nevada politicians -- including Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid -- but Obama did not tell people to skip coming to Vegas for conventions and meetings. We rated Romney's claim Mostly False.

Romney said Obama has reneged on an important promise about the economic stimulus package.

"Three years ago, a newly-elected President Obama told America that if Congress approved his plan to borrow nearly a trillion dollars, he would hold unemployment below 8 percent. It hasn't been below 8 percent since."

We have heard that line from others. Rep. Michele Bachmann said a year ago that, "the White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent."  Columnist George Will said in July 2010 that President Obama said if Congress passed the economic stimulus bill, "we would have unemployment at 8 percent and no higher. And it went higher."

The claims are based on a January 2009 report from two Obama economic advisers who projected the stimulus would create 3 million to 4 million jobs by the end of 2010. It included a chart predicting unemployment rates with and without the stimulus. With the stimulus, they predicted the unemployment rate would peak at just under 8 percent in 2009.

We read the report and found the 8 percent figure was a projection, not a promise -- and it was a projection that came with heavy disclaimers. "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error," the report states.

Another disclaimer says, "Forecasts of the unemployment rate without the recovery plan vary substantially. Some private forecasters anticipate unemployment rates as high as 11% in the absence of action."

Romney, like Will, Bachmann and others who have made the claim, is exaggerating by making it sound like a commitment. So we rated Romney's claim Mostly False.

Romney also said Obama "has been trying to take a bow" for the nation's 8.3 percent unemployment, but "if you take into account all the people who are struggling for work or just stopped looking, the real unemployment rate is over 15 percent." We checked that number, which economists refer to as the U-6, and found it was correct. We rated it True.

Romney repeated another theme we've heard, that Obama is "shrinking our military." We checked the numbers and talked with experts and found that wasn't so much Obama's doing as it was a byproduct of the paralysis of the congressional budget process. We rated the claim Half True.

Romney also used a line we've heard countless times: "This president began his presidency by apologizing for America."

That's been a theme in Romney's campaign - he even titled his book No Apology.

To check the claim, we examined Obama's speeches, searched for "sorry" (and got no hits) and had experts on apologies review the speeches. Obama have used diplomatic language to express the idea that the United States isn’t always perfect, but he never apologized. We rated Romney’s statement Pants on Fire.

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On the Stump: Checking Romney's Nevada speech