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DNC Night One Strategy: Pretend Bush Is Still President

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro set the tone for the Democratic National Convention in his keynote address tonight. He wants America to put Democrats in power so they can create jobs for the middle class.

Listening to his speech, and many that preceded it, you might not immediately realize that America has had a Democratic president for the last four years.

Castro attacked Republicans for having implemented failed economic policies: “Their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price.”

But that was in 2008. And this speech was given in 2012.

In the ensuing four years, under a Democratic president, America has undergone the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Three years after emerging from recession, unemployment is still at 8.3 percent. Corporate profits are high, but median income growth has been anemic.

Castro tried, briefly, to defend the president’s record on jobs. He argued that Obama’s bailout of the auto industry had saved a million jobs -- I disagree that the net savings was that large, but I’ll agree there was a net savings.

But mostly, he defended Obama on non-jobs grounds. His first example of Obama “taking action” for the middle class, the auto bailout, was the only “jobs” example. The subsequent ones were the Affordable Care Act, K-12 spending, Pell Grants and the DREAM Act. These initiatives all have their merits, but they are not short-term drivers of job growth, and they are not substitutes for job creation.

Castro could not focus on Obama’s jobs record because there is not a lot to celebrate. The economy is barely creating enough jobs to keep up with population growth. Castro bragged that the economy has added 4.5 million jobs in the last 29 months, but we need about 10 million more to get back to full employment.

And that’s why attacks like these sound so odd: “When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’” But Castro's guy has already had four years to clean up the Republican mess and get the middle class back to work. How much longer are we supposed to give him before giving someone like Romney a shot?

(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. E-mail him and follow him on Twitter.)

Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at the Ticker.

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