Virginia is for Lovers — and Haters — of the Economy

Photograph by Paul J. Richards/AFP/GettyImages

A construction worker hauls lumber during the framing of a new townhouse in Chantilly, Virginia.

Virginians could be forgiven for feeling a bit schizophrenic about their state’s economy: Two top Republicans have delivered seemingly opposite messages in recent television ads.

A few months ago, Governor Bob McDonnell appeared in an upbeat ad to deliver a reassuring message: “Jobs and opportunity are thriving again,” he says, smiling. “Virginia is growing strong, and so is our future.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney pours cold water over McDonnell’s optimism in ads his campaign just began airing.

“Here in Virginia,” a female narrator says, as a black-and-white photograph of Barack Obama is shown, “we’re not better off under President Obama.”

The mixed messaging shows the challenge Romney could face in key battleground states such as Virginia, Florida and Ohio, where Republican governors want to highlight economic progress even as the party’s presidential candidate tries to make the case that Obama’s policies have stood in the way of growth.

McDonnell’s “Opportunity Virginia” political action committee aired the 30-second “Growing Strong” ad 467 times on TV stations across the state from April 25 to May 8, spending an estimated $172,870, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a firm that tracks advertising.

It begins with a woman saying, “Virginia is growing strong again.” Other people identified as residents of the state reiterate the message as positive economic statistics are displayed on the screen.

Cue the ominous music in Romney’s new ads.

Three Virginia spots are part of a state-specific buy that began over the weekend. Each version opens with Romney addressing the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30 in Tampa, Florida. “This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than we he took office,” Romney says.

The Romney campaign says its ads don’t necessarily negate what McDonnell posited in his earlier spots.

“Despite the positive economic progress Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling have made, there’s only so much that can be done to offset the cascade of job-killing regulations and hostility toward job creators emanating from President Obama’s White House,” Curt Cashour, Romney’s Virginia spokesman, said in a statement. “The fact is that President Obama’s policies are inhibiting — and in some cases blocking — job creation in the Commonwealth.”

Virginia’s employment increased 1.3 percent between the first quarter of 2009 — during which Obama took office –and the start of this year, according to the most recent data available in the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States. Personal income has risen 11 percent in the same period, BEES shows.

The economic health of Virginia — like that of every state except North Dakota and Michigan — has worsened between the first quarter of 2009 and the same period in 2012, according to BEES.

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