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Ad Watch: GOP accuses Obama of breaking vows to improve economy
Nancy Madsen
By Nancy Madsen July 27, 2012

The Republican National Committee is airing a TV ad in Virginia accusing President Barack Obama of not meeting promises to improve the U.S. economy.

The 30-second spot flashes photos of closed plants and stores and a pensive-looking Obama. The narrator says: "President Obama came to the White House with big plans. He’d halve the deficit, strengthen the economy, lower unemployment. What did we get? National debt over $15 trillion and climbing. Unemployment above 8 percent for 40 straight months. An ongoing economic crisis with no end in sight. He tried. You tried. It’s OK to make a change."

Many of the claims in the ad have been previously addressed by PolitiFact. Here’s a recap:

Claim: "He’d halve the deficit …"

Several claims that Obama has failed in a promise to halve the deficit have been rated True by PolitiFact Florida.

Obama made the vow on Feb. 23, 2009, a month after he took office. "Today I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office," he said. "Now, this will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control."

When Obama made the statement, the U.S. deficit was $1.3 trillion. The deficit for fiscal year 2012, which ends Sept. 30, is estimated to be $1.17 trillion.  

Claim: "He’d … lower unemployment."

This rephrases a tired GOP charge that consistently gets Mostly False or worse ratings. Many Republicans have claimed that Obama promised his stimulus package would keep the national unemployment rate below 8 percent. But Obama never made such a vow.

The GOP claim is based on a January 2009 report issued by the incoming Obama administration. It contained a chart projecting that unemployment, if the stimulus was approved, would top out at 8 percent. The report, however, contained several disclaimers warning that the projections were subject to "significant margins of error" and a high degree of uncertainty due to a recession that was "unusual both in its fundamental causes and severity."

PolitiFact National came up with a list of 508 pledges of specific action Obama made when he was running for president and monitors how he’s performed on each one. The list does not include any promises to reduce unemployment.

Claim: "What did we get? … Unemployment above 8 percent for 40 straight months."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the last time unemployment sat below 8 percent was in January 2009, when it was 7.8 percent. Unemployment rose to 8.3 percent the next month and continued on that track until it hit 10 percent in October 2009. From there, it dropped gradually, reaching 8.2 percent in May 2012, making that the 40th consecutive month the rate had been at 8 percent or higher. June also rolled in at 8.2 percent.

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Our Sources

Republican National Committee, "It’s OK," (ad), July 18, 2012.

PolitiFact Florida, "Crossroads GPS ad says Obama failed to keep pledge of halving the deficit," May 17, 2012.

PolitiFact Florida, "Obama promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term but didn't," March 8, 2012.

White House Office of Management and Budget, Historical Tables (Table 7.1), accessed July 19, 2012.

PolitiFact New Jersey, "GOP challenger Joseph Kyrillos blames U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for rising annual deficits in federal budget," Feb. 1, 2012.

PolitiFact Ohio, "Bob Latta says Obama promised the stimulus plan would have unemployment at 6 percent by now," May 17, 2012.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Cantor says Obama promised the stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent," March 2, 2012.

PolitiFact Tennessee, "Tennessee Congresswoman Diane Black says jobless rate has been 8 percent or higher for 40 straight months," June 11, 2012.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, accessed July 19, 2012.

BLS, Compensation from before World War I through the Great Depression, Fall 2001.

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