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O’Malley Seeks to Clarify Remark on Obama’s Economic Record

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, seen here in a television appearance on Feb. 26, 2012, sought to clarify remarks after Republicans seized on his answer to a question about whether Americans are better off after four years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Photographer: Chris Usher/CBS News via Getty Images

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley sought today to clarify his remarks after Republicans seized on his answer to a question about whether Americans are better off after four years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

“The Bush recession cost us a lot of jobs,” O’Malley said in an interview today in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Democrats will start their national convention tomorrow. “While we have not yet recovered all of the jobs lost, we are making progress. We are creating jobs rather than losing jobs and home foreclosures are lower than before the president took office. Clearly, our country is becoming stronger, not weaker.”

O’Malley was among the surrogates appearing on yesterday’s television talk shows on behalf of Obama. Asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether people are better off today than they were four years ago, O’Malley replied: “No.”

The governor went on to say, “But that’s not the question of this election. The question -- without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were, before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars, charged for the first time to the national credit card.”

Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan weighed in in a statement yesterday, calling O’Malley’s comments “more proof that President Obama’s policies aren’t working.”

‘Good Old Days’

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, returned today to the question Ronald Reagan raised in his 1980 presidential campaign.

“The president can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can’t tell you that you’re better off,” Ryan said during a campaign stop in Greenville, North Carolina. “Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now.”

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president had improved the lot of Americans compared with where they were under his predecessor.

“Are the American people better off than they were in September 2008 when we were losing 432,000 jobs a month?” Psaki told reporters traveling today with Obama to New Orleans. “I would say yes. Is there more we need to do? Absolutely.”

O’Malley, who is chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said today he wasn’t saying that Obama’s policies had made Americans worse off. “It wasn’t the first time, it won’t be the last time, that people have thrown a word splice back at me,” he said.

The governor said he and other surrogates have talked with Obama campaign officials about how to discuss improvements in the economy at a time when many Americans are still suffering.

“We all talked about it,” he said. “It’s how can we more clearly articulate the fact that we have been making progress. We’re all trying to find the clearest and most honest way to articulate the reality we’re sharing.”

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