Now that the economy appears to be rebounding, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney faces his most serious challenge yet in persuading voters that he would strengthen the economy more than President Obama has.
Romney, a former venture capitalist and ex-governor of Massachusetts, has made the main pillar of his candidacy the idea that Obama has made the economy worse and that Romney has the experience and know-how to make it better. But at least part of that argument seemed to be undercut Friday when the government reported that the unemployment rate has dropped in January to 8.3 percent from 8.5 in December, and after hovering at about 9 percent for the majority of last year.
Romney's answer: Argue that America can do better and that the current shaky economic situation should not be considered the "new normal."
Romney says that, when one considers the millions of Americans who have left the job market altogether because they couldn't find work, the real unemployment rate is 15 percent. He also argues that recent modest gains in job creation have occurred because of the "innovation of the American people and the private sector," not because of Obama's policies, which he says have hindered job creation on a large scale.
Strategists of both major parties say the key to Romney's success will be whether the economic numbers continue to improve over the next several months, and whether Americans believe that the economy is finally moving in a positive direction overall.