In some cases, the competing messages come across as GOP governors — like McDonnell and Snyder — stand next to Romney to introduce him when he campaigns in their states.
Rising-star Republican governors who are potential Romney vice-presidential picks also are publicly giddy about a thawing jobs market as corporations and small businesses expand, and they point to steadily improving tax collections in their states as proof.
In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley talks up a jobless rate that slid from 12 percent in December 2009 to 8.8 percent in April. Her commerce secretary, Bobby Hitt, says that South Carolina recruited a projected 20,000 jobs and $5.1 billion in investment last year, and the state Commerce Department churns out press releases on every company expansion, whether it creates 10 jobs or 500.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talks up his state's unemployment rate (7.1 percent in April) and job growth. Even as the latest Louisiana revenue estimates exposed a $211 million shortfall, Jindal insisted the state's economic picture wasn't grim. He notes that Bayou State unemployment rates are below the regional and national averages and points to 44,000 Louisiana jobs added over the past year.
To be sure, it's not just GOP-governed states that are experiencing economic growth. Forty-eight states have seen a drop in unemployment rates over the past 12 months — New York's rate increased from 8.0 percent to 8.5 percent, and Rhode Island's remains unchanged at 11.2 percent. Democratic governors, however, are quick to credit Obama with helping their states rebound.
"Our country has now seen 26 straight months of private-sector job growth under President Obama's leadership," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. "We are moving in the right direction toward full recovery."
Ultimately, the presidential race will come down to whether voters feel the economy is improving or stagnating. And the outcome will determine whether Romney and the Republicans are successful in squaring the broader economic criticism with progress in key states.
Bob Lewis reported from Danville and Richmond in Virginia, Phillip Rawls from Montgomery, Ala. Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing, Mich., Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tenn., Randall Chase in Dover, Del., Seanna Adcox in Columbia, S.C., Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, La., and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
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