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Mark Naymik
By Mark Naymik August 3, 2010

Republican Governors Association says Ohio lost 400,000 jobs on Gov. Ted Strickland’s watch

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 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. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich sings it about incumbent governor Ted Strickland.

Now the Republican Governors Association has made the phrase the central theme of three commercials attacking Strickland on behalf of Kasich.

"Ohio lost 400,000 jobs on his watch," is the opening line for one of the ads.

With the phrase getting aired so often, we thought it was time to check the accuracy of the playlist.

The Republicans are referring to the state’s net job losses since Strickland -- and by extension Fisher -- took office in January 2007. Ohio lost 386,600 non-farm jobs from January 2007 through June 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.

But the claim breaks down when Republicans suggest that the governor -- or any one official -- is 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 governor’s office 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 argues 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.

Strickland is not the only one making this argument.

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 makes the 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 and the state has a current unemployment rate of 10.1 percentage points compared to Ohio’s 10.5 rate.

"In a time when every state that is not sitting on a pile of natural gas is struggling, you bet we are," Daniels said. He argued that Indiana is adding jobs faster than other states and its "business climate" is better than Ohio’s. But, 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."

That’s right. Daniels delivered the line that many Democrats make to defend themselves from the charge that the state’s job losses are all their fault.

So even if the campaign phrase -- "Ohio lost 400,000 jobs on his watch" -- is stuck in a voter’s head, the claim does not reflect the larger economic backdrop, one that both Democrats and Republicans in charge of states admit produced results out of their control.

If the roles were reversed, and Ohio were led by a Republican governor and it was Democrats making the accusation, our rating would be the same.

We find the Republican Governors Association claim to be Half True.

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Republican Governors Association says Ohio lost 400,000 jobs on Gov. Ted Strickland’s watch

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