SPARKS, NV -- Mitt Romney on Friday hailed news that the economy added over 240,000 jobs in January as "good news," while blaming President Obama for making the economic recovery more difficult.
Romney, who's made criticism of the president's economic stewardship a centerpiece of his campaign, engaged a delicate political balancing act between seeming upbeat about the news, which also saw the unemployment rate drop to 8.3 percent, while making the case that Obama's leadership has made the recovery slower and more painful.
"This recovery has been slower than it should have been, people have been suffering for longer than they should have had to suffer. Will it get better? I think it’ll get better. I don’t know how long it’s going to take," Romney said at a business roundtable outside Reno. " We got good news this morning on job creation in January. I hope that continues, we get people back to work."
“But this president has not helped the process," Romney continued. "He’s hurt it."
For Romney, reacting to news as he did today is a bit like walking through a political minefield. Any economic indicators that show a stronger or swifter economy undercut Romney's message that Obama's policies have made, or are making, the economy weaker.
"This has been a tough time. And I know the president didn't cause this downturn -- this recession. But he didn't make it better either. He made it worse," Romney said. "He made it worse because instead of focusing his energy on the economy and getting people back to work, he used his mandate being elected-- he used that to put through a series of programs that he and his base and his friends thought were important but frankly made it harder for our economy to recover. And so we've suffered."
This morning's event, the first of three planned campaign stops across Nevada today, had a bit of a back-to-the-future feel. Roundtable discussions with business leaders were a regular feature of Romney's fall campaign in New Hampshire and Iowa, but have fallen out of favor as the campaign has held more rallies and large events since voting began in January.
Also hearkening back to Romney's fall campaign strategy? The frontrunner made no mention of any of the remaining GOP candidates in his hourlong campaign stop.