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Campaign 2012

Romney will offer blueprint next month for adding jobs

Obama slated to unveil own plan same week

Mitt Romney has been trying to differentiate himself from Rick Perry by focusing on his experience in venture capital. Mitt Romney has been trying to differentiate himself from Rick Perry by focusing on his experience in venture capital.
By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / August 24, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is planning to unveil a jobs proposal in two weeks, attempting to upstage President Obama’s own plan the same week as the former Massachusetts governor shifts to a more aggressive phase of his campaign.

Romney, who has kept a low profile and not offered specific proposals, is attempting to seize control of what has been the central tenet of his presidential campaign: his message to Republican primary voters that his business background is what gives him the edge against Obama.

The candidacy of Texas Governor Rick Perry threatens to steal that message, as he boasts that his state has created about 4 out of every 10 jobs in America over the past two years. Like Romney, Perry has tried to focus tightly on job creation as he outlines his campaign, with a mantra that Romney is also adopting: “Get America working again.’’

Romney announced Monday night in a Fox Business Network interview that he would unveil a jobs plan in Nevada on Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day. Obama announced last week that he would unveil his own plan just after Labor Day.

The White House has not yet said exactly when Obama will make his announcement. But the speeches from Romney and Obama will put on full display two contrasting approaches to what is likely to be the driving issue of the 2012 election.

Romney has kept to a fairly low-key strategy, but his advisers have been promising that his approach would shift after Labor Day, when they suggest more voters will begin paying attention. The day after Romney’s jobs plan is unveiled, the Republican presidential hopefuls will take part in a debate - the first to include Perry - in Simi Valley, Calif.

Romney has so far declined to engage with Perry, who has surged to the top tier of candidates. But Romney is subtly trying to differentiate himself by focusing on his experience as a venture capitalist.

In fact, his announcement of a jobs plan Monday came in response to a question about Perry.

“The place I think I want to focus my time and attention is on the failure of the president,’’ Romney told Fox’s Neil Cavuto. “The focus of my effort right now is to make sure people understand that President Obama and I could not be more different. He spent his life in politics, I spent my life as a business person. I know what it takes to get jobs again in this country.’’

It’s a refrain Romney is also likely to use against Perry, to highlight Perry’s long tenure in elected office in contrast with Romney’s long tenure in the private sector.

Romney’s job-creation record as governor has come under scrutiny, first by Democrats and now, increasingly, from his Republican primary opponents.

Romney made a promise during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign - “My program for creating jobs is second to none in the entire history of this state’’ - but by the end of his four-year term the state had generated only 24,400 net new jobs, according to an analysis by Moody’s Economy.com, an independent research group.

Massachusetts had only an 0.8 percent increase in employment, making it the fourth-weakest rate of job growth among all states over that time.

Some in the state’s business community also complained that Romney never fulfilled a promise to be the state’s chief cheerleader around the country, and instead spent time using the Bay State - and its liberal political culture - as a punch line when he began laying the groundwork for his 2008 presidential campaign.

“Instead of serving as the Commonwealth’s number one salesperson to encourage firms to locate in the state, he tended to poke fun at the state,’’ Brian R. Gilmore, a vice president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, told the Globe in 2007.

Obama’s plan is likely to include two different proposals, one to spur short-term job growth and another to influence a congressional committee that is working on a longer-term deficit reduction package. Romney’s campaign yesterday declined to discuss details of his jobs plan, but on the campaign trail Romney has talked in broad strokes of lower taxes and less government regulation. He has also been increasingly critical of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation passed last year, but has not said whether he wants to repeal it or has an alternate proposal.

In the Fox interview, Romney seemed supportive of extending the payroll tax cut, something that Obama has pushed as a way to encourage businesses to hire more workers.

“I’m all in favor of keeping taxes down and keeping burdens down on American businesses and employers,’’ Romney said on Fox. “I want employers and entrepreneurs to have every incentive to open businesses and to start creating jobs.’’

Romney in 2009 also supported extending the payroll tax, saying it was “the best thing to do.’’ But in 2010, he was against an extension included in a broader tax deal because the employer’s share of payroll taxes remained the same, while the employee’s share was reduced.

The White House, and Obama’s campaign, declined to comment on Romney’s decision to announce a jobs plan in the same week as the president.

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

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