Remember Tim Pawlenty? A couple of years ago, the former two-term governor of Minnesota ran an ill-fated Republican presidential campaign, which collapsed a few months before the Iowa caucuses.
Pawlenty’s national operation didn’t contribute much to the national conversation, but whenever his name comes up, I always have the same thought: he’s the guy who said he could boost economic growth to 5% GDP.
Yes, in May 2011, the Republican presidential hopeful unveiled a massive tax-cut plan, which Pawlenty said would move the country towards his specific target: “Let’s start with a big, positive goal. Let’s grow the economy by 5 percent, instead of an anemic 2 percent.” (Long-time readers may recall I mocked him repeatedly for his misguided projections.)
Three years later, Pawlenty’s goal seems to have particular salience this morning: the new GDP report points to 5% growth in the third quarter. Indeed, President Obama and his team are probably looking back at the 2012 race with glee right about now:
* The Romney Standard: Mitt Romney said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans elect him, he’d get the unemployment rate down to 6% by 2016. Obama won anyway and the unemployment rate dropped below 6% two years faster.
* The Gingrich Standard: Newt Gingrich said during the 2012 campaign that if Americans re-elected the president, gas prices would reach $10 per gallon, while Gingrich would push gas down to $2.50 a gallon. As of this morning, the national average at the pump is a little under $2.38.
* The Pawlenty Standard: Tim Pawlenty said trillions of dollars in tax breaks would boost economic growth to 5% GDP. Obama actually raised taxes on the wealthy and GDP growth reached 5% anyway.
Of course, in fairness, some qualifiers are in order. For example, gas prices have dropped sharply for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the Obama administration’s policies, so crediting the president is a real stretch. On GDP growth, Pawlenty may have been referring to 5% on an annual scale, though his promises at the time were a little vague and it was hard to tell exactly what he was trying to say.
And on unemployment, the U.S. jobless rate would have dropped below 6% much faster had congressional Republicans not killed the American Jobs Act.
But even putting these relevant details aside, the trouble for Republican rhetoricians is that by the party’s own standards, Obama is succeeding beautifully. They established the GOP benchmarks and now the Democratic president is the one meeting, and in some cases exceeding, the Republicans’ goals.