A series of surrogates for the president are fending off attacks made by current GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, who in his South Carolina speeches seems less concerned with taking on his fellow primary candidates.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a spokesman for President Obama and the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, says the newest national unemployment rate of 8.5 percent shows the direction of the country under this administration.
O’Malley spoke with South Carolina Radio Network’s Ashley Byrd.
Gov. O’Malley: Our nation is actually starting to recover jobs, starting to create jobs again. We had some really positive numbers coming once again showing that for the 22nd month in a row we’ve had positive private sector job growth in our country. That hasn’t happened for many, many years. And what former Governor Romney has been campaigning on is really a pledge to take us back, back to the days of record unemployment, back to the days of record tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and back to the days of when our middle class was looking at a world in which opportunities were shrinking rather than expanding. The president’s vision is a different vision. And while these years have been difficult years it is beyond any debate that we are doing better now than on the day the president was elected.
Byrd: Are you and the DNC focusing more on Governor Romney right now and why?
O’Malley: Well there’s actually a pretty interesting battle going on within the Republican Party. You have here in South Carolina as it is and in every state a Republican Party that is far more conservative than the general public, and what’s happening in South Carolina right now is voters have the opportunity to evaluate which candidate actually represents the core of the Republican Party, which candidate is the true conservative. John McCain hassaid Romney is totally consistent on the issues because Governor Romney has been on both sides of every controversial issue. So the people of South Carolina will evaluate that sort of record with someone who has emerged out of Iowa as a much more traditional conservative in Senator Santorum, and it should be a very interesting clash. But I think at the end of the day this race is going to be determined when people in South Carolina, in Maryland, and in every state in the union ask themselves, which of these two leaders is best able to move this country forward to a point where opportunities are expanding and jobs are expanding again? Do want to return to the failed policies of the past, regardless who their standard-bearer might be, or do we want to continue to move forward? And I think as time goes on more and more, people will appreciate the course and the hard work that the president’s laid out to get our country moving forward again.
Byrd: Do you have to mount a four-pronged or three-pronged attack right now? Are you putting all your eggs in one basket to go after Romney; how do you handle this particular, as you said, “interesting” race at this point?
O’Malley: Well, I think we have to be respectful of the process that’s playing out within the Republican Party. As Democrats, we have our nominee that is President Obama who has created more jobs in last year of his administration than George Bush did in all 8 years of his time in office. But as the Republican process unfolds, something that I think all of us need to be looking for is some sort of solution, some sort of answer, some sort of proposal that are different from the failed policies of the past that brought us to a point of record unemployment, record foreclosures, record job losses, and that’s something we have yet to hear from anyone on the Republican side of this contest. So as the battle plays out in the Republican Party, the important question and the important focus that we need to keep is one on jobs. What are the choices we need to make in this changing economy so that our children are more likely to be winners rather than losers? What are the things that we can only do together, that we must do together to better educate, to better innovate, and accelerate this job recovery so that more Americans have to opportunity to make this world a better place for themselves and their families.
Byrd: Jobs were created in South Carolina at the Savannah River Site via the stimulus package, which now with the stimulus jobs gearing down again, that’s facing criticism from Republican leaders here because they said they would have gone with a more sustainable job package in the U.S. budget.
O’Malley: First of all, in the re- investment and recovery act the President never pretended, even for a second, that the act was going to be the long-term fix to our nation’s economic challenges. What we needed to do at the time was prevent our country from sinking into the second Great Depression, and that’s what those dollars have prevented. Over the long-term the answer is to continue to do what we have been doing every month what we have now been able to do for 22 months in a row, which is to create private sector jobs. 22 months in a row of consecutive, month over month, positive job growth. So, there are many who believe we should continue to extend the investments of the recovery and re-investment act. And if we had more help in things like investments in our infrastructure, in transportation, in the important remediation work at Savannah River and other places, then those things could continue to happen. We need to do the things that work, and right now one of the drags on our economy happen to be the number of public sector jobs that are being lost at the state level, also on the local level, as well as some of the jobs that are no longer supported as the recovery and re-investment dollars are spent and run out.
Byrd: The president faces lots of criticism from Republicans because of the NLRB’s actions against Boeing, seeming to punish a right-to-work state’s ability to attract industry.
O’Malley: The National Labor Relations board is charged with enforcing the law, and in this case it had nothing to do with where the jobs were going to as it had to do with not punishing the Unions in the particular place where the contract was. Similarly, if there were a corporation here in South Carolina that the employer was trying to punish in negotiations by moving those jobs out. They would have the same recourse to the NLRB and we would expect any President, Democrat or Republican, not to allow that sort of illegal behavior by an employer to happen if it were happening in South Carolina or any other state.
Byrd: Based on your role as the Chairman of the Governors Association, if the complaint was based on law, why did the negotiation yield NLRB backing down? This is the complaint of Trey Gowdy and Senator Lindsey Graham, that if it were truly legal question here then they should continue this as a legal question instead of pulling out its complaint, pulling its suit out, because it would still be a legal question. Would it not be?
O’Malley: Well very often in the courts of South Carolina, in the courts of Maryland, and anyplace where you have adjudication of a dispute, it is not uncommon for people to withdrawal their complaints once they settle the matter. I think in this case Boeing saw they were going to lose and they decided to back down, and in those cases there wasn’t a need for the NLRB to go forward.
Byrd: South Carolina is a very different state than the previous primary states. What is your strategy in reaching the Independents (voters) of South Carolina who could still be swayed according to the 40% undecided in the party, and those who have faded away from the Democratic Obama vote?
O’Malley: Our strategy with Independents in South Carolina or anywhere else in the country is pretty similar to our strategy with Democrats and Republicans. We need to focus on the things that work to create jobs, to expand opportunity, and to boost our nation’s unemployment rate. There is no progress without a job. No family can protect their home without a job. So, the key issue here is do we want to elect leaders that have shown the ability to do the things that work, to cross party lines, to break out of narrow ideology, and to create the sort of partnerships that actually create jobs and get our people working again, or do we instead want to take a hard right turn and embrace the sort of new era tea party governor’s like your governor here in South Carolina, and as independents look at the records of these newly elected tea party governors? What they see and what they experience is a tremendous amount of buyer’s remorse. They voted for governors whether it was in South Carolina, Wisconsin, or Ohio who they thought would accelerate the jobs recovery, who instead resorted in narrow-minded ideology doing things like pushing huge cuts to education, or regressive laws to discourage people from going to the polls and voting. And that’s not the sort of entrepreneurial, can do, let’s work together attitude that most of us Democrats, Republicans, and Independents expect from our leaders. You can honestly say you are not satisfied with the pace of our nation’s job recovery. That’s fair. But you cannot deny that the nation is actually creating jobs again after eight years where we were not creating jobs, and after the worst recession that was brought about by the failed policies of the past. Policies that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and others want us to return to as a country.