Now that the unemployment rate has improved several months in a row, Mitt Romney has had to shift his message on the economy, while Rick Santorum has stopped talking about it at all. In Illinois Monday, Romney admitted the economy is "looking like it's getting a little better on the employment front," The Wall Street Journal reports, and moved to steal the gas prices issue from Newt Gingrich. Santorum, on the other hand, has dropped most references to the economy, Politico reports, and at one stop, said he didn't care about unemployment. In a 52-minute speech in Illinois Monday, he mentioned unemployment zero times. He said the word "economy" three times, and only in the context of the government trying to take it over.
Last year, Romney repeatedly said President Obama had made the recession "worse and longer." He insisted only he, with his business experience, knew how to fix the economy. But now Romney's changed that slightly. He's still faulting Obama for overregulation, but now he's saying, "The economy always comes back after a recession, of course. There's never been one we didn't recover from," the Journal's Sara Murray and Carol E. Lee report. If the economy keeps improving, the Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak and Paul West point out that a Romney vs. Obama election will be "one candidate saying he would have done better and the other insisting things could have been worse."
Santorum, on the other hand, isn't animated by economic issues. He tends to only talk about it when he's asked and in those moments, he's clearly riffing. Santorum tends to get himself in trouble when he's riffing. In Moline Monday, he tried to say he was more than a number cruncher, but it didn't come out right. "I don't care what the unemployment rate's going to be. Doesn't matter to me," Santorum said, according to National Journal. "My campaign doesn't hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. It's something more foundational that's going on." He later took it back.
Politico's Reid J. Epstein and Juana Summers write that another stop, Santorum urged supporters not to pick a mere "financier" to run the country. "The issue in this race is not the economy,” Santorum said. "The reason the economy [has become] an issue in this race is because the federal government is oppressing its people and taking away your freedom and the economy is suffering as a result."