Mitt Romney thinks the economy is improving.
That might come as a shock if you've heard the candidate's stump speech. But it's true.
Romney met with voters Monday in Springfield, Ill., on President Obama's home turf, and made clear that he is not a member of the second-recession doomsday crowd.
"I believe the economy is coming back by the way," Romney told the crowd. "We'll see what happens, it's had ups and downs, I think it's finally coming back."
Not one to give the president too much credit, Romney quickly qualified his statement by noting that the U.S. economy "always comes back" after recessions.
But the throwaway line underscores that Romney might be forced into making a counterfactual argument on the economy, essentially a "what if" question.
That is, instead of hammering Obama for his oversight of a stubbornly anemic and stagnant recovery, a period of rapid growth might necessitate Romney changing his rhetoric to: The recovery could have been stronger, sooner.
And that's exactly what he did Monday.
"The problem is this [recession] has been deeper than it needed to be, and a slower recovery than it should have been, by virtue of the policies of this president," Romney said. "Almost everything he has done has made it harder for this economy to recover."
Over the past few years, it was the Obama administration that had been making the counterfactual argument, saying that without TARP, the stimulus, etc., the recovery would have been slower and the unemployment rate even higher.
It now seems likely that if economic growth catches up with the robust jobs numbers of recent months, both campaigns might be making counterfactual arguments on the economy come the fall, essentially turning the debate over the economy into one big thought experiment.
Even though the national economy is on the upswing, many Americans haven't been reaping the benefits.
In fact, the median household income in January was $50,020, or 5.4% lower than it was in June 2009, the beginning of the economic recovery, according to a new estimate from Sentier Research, based on Census data.
This decline in income comes despite improvements in the job market. The unemployment rate stood to 8.3% in January, MORETami Luhby - Mar 6, 2012 12:16 PM ET
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||3.75%||3.66%|
|15 yr fixed||2.89%||2.79%|
|30 yr refi||3.74%||3.64%|
|15 yr refi||2.89%||2.79%|
Today's featured rates:
|McDonald's gives Charles Ramsey free food for a year|
|Where your donation dollars go|
|Hedge fund guru says moms and trading don't mix|
|Doomsday investors betting on market crash|
|Investors consider life after Fed stimulus|
|Latest Report||Next Update|
|Home prices||Aug 28|
|Consumer confidence||Aug 28|
|Manufacturing (ISM)||Sept 4|
|Inflation (CPI)||Sept 14|
|Retail sales||Sept 14|