We're getting lots and lots and lots of letters about Mitt Romney's secretly taped comments on the number of Americans "dependent" on the government (read today's story here). And, no, not a one in support or defense. Here's a sampling.
Mitt Romney's latest ad says that President Obama's economic policies have failed, and that Romney's policies would create 350,000 new jobs in North Carolina.
Let's assume he means in his first four-year term. That would be 87,500 new jobs a year. That's a lot of jobs.
First, let's look at what's happened since January 2009, when the president took office. There were 4,174,597 people working in North Carolina, according to statistics kept by the state Employment Security Commission. (Seasonally adjusted)
In July of this year, the number had grown to 4,202,281. So, looking at it this way, the North Carolina economy employs 27,684 more people. If you want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and say that he needed time to get his policies into place before they would show results, let's start at January 2010. The state had more than 100,000 fewer people working at that point compared with the year earlier, so the base line was 4,070,722. Between then and now, the state economy has 131,559 more employed people. So that was growth of around 52,000 employees a year.
Romney says he can add 87,500 jobs each year in his first term. That may be doable, but it would be a heck of a thing. In the '90s, when the state was growing gangbusters, the number of employees grew an average of 65,000 annually.
One of the problems in North Carolina is that globalization has decimated manufacturing. The number of people employed in manufacturing in North Carolina has dropped since 2000 from 759,026 to 435,220.
Now, a big chunk of that happened early in the last decade, the continuation of the offshoring of jobs in textiles and other traditional North Carolina industries. But another big batch of manufacturing job losses happened in the recession. 2008 was an awful year for manufacturing in North Carolina.
If there is any good news, it is that the manufacturing losses have seemed to stabilize the last couple of years. Another piece of good news - maybe, depending on your point of view - is that increased natural gas production through fracking could bring more manufacturing jobs here. If you are against fracking, then this probably won't appeal to you, but it is possible that abundant, low-cost energy is a way to bring jobs back from overseas. One joker in the deck is that we don't really know yet how much natural gas can be extracted through fracking in NC, and won't know for a while.
Updated late Friday: The Romney campaign says it will annouce the VP choice on Saturday in Virginia, at the outset of the bus tour.
Mitt Romney is bus touring through so-called "swing" states beginning Saturday, including planned stops on Sunday in North Carolina that include a barbecue restaurant in Morrisville. He'll also visit Ohio, Virginia and Florida on the four-day trip.
The bus trip is raising yet again speculation about when Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, will annouce his running mate. Potential choices are from Virginia (Gov. Bob McDonnell), Ohio (Sen. Rob Portman), and Florida (Sen. Marco Rubio).
Might Romney announce his choice on Friday, then hit the road through key states, as John McCain did after announcing Sarah Palin as his choice in 2008? It is unclear, of course.
But here's some math that makes that scenario seem unlikely: Most of the recent choices for VP were announced in the week before the party's convention, according to an analysis by Dome of data compiled by HLNTV.com. (Find its slide show here.)
The one exception was John Edwards in 2004 -- announced nearly three weeks before that year's convention in Boston.
The GOP convention kicks off on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla., which is still more than two weeks after the Romney swing state bus tour begins.
If you take into account the past two decades, and exclude the Edwards choice, then VP picks have been announced, on average, about four days prior to the party's convention.
Here's when recent choices were announced:
2008: Joe Biden -- Aug. 23, two days before the convention.
2008: Sarah Palin -- Aug. 29, three days before the convention.
2004: John Edwards -- July 6, 20 days before the convention.
2000: Joe Lieberman -- Aug. 7, seven days before the convention.
2000: Dick Cheney -- July 25, six days before the convention.
1996: Jack Kemp -- Aug. 10, two days before the convention.
1992: Al Gore -- July 9, four days before the convention.
I had to do some quick research, which consisted of looking in our archives, to find out about Smokey's Shack, where Mitt Romney is supposed to be going for a rally in Morrisville Sunday.
Here is what I found, from a Greg Cox column in 2007:
"Meanwhile in Morrisville, Rub's Smokehouse has been reincarnated as Smokey's Shack (10800 Chapel Hill Road; 469-1724; www.smokeysshack.com). The name is about the only thing that has changed, according to Kim Lee, who reopened the barbecue joint with new partner Kevin Mote on Dec. 5. The menu, whose Memphis style spareribs, beef brisket and pulled pork earned a cultlike following among barbecue aficionados, is substantially unchanged. Even the wait staff have returned to work. Or, as the jocular Lee puts it on the restaurant's answering machine, returning Rub's fans can expect "the same great food and the same questionable service." Also like Rub's, Smokey's is open Monday-Friday, for lunch only (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)."
Now you know what I know. I like the questionable service line. If you have anything to add about Smokey's, comment below.
We are right now in the middle of a debate that was triggered by a speech by President Obama. in Roanoke. Call it the "You didn't build that" speech.
The Iowa caucuses tonight brought back memories of when I was a small-town reporter covering presidential politics in the '70s.
Unintentionally, "The 19th Wife" (Lifetime, 9 tonight) comes at an embattled time in our history, when the concept of religious tolerance is being tested. And while the film's focus is on Latter Day Saints and not Muslims, recall that Mitt Romney had to reassure the public about his faith during his failed presidential run.
I don't mean to make the film more than it is; after all, it's fiction (based on a novel of the same name) and it's Lifetime. But the "The 19th Wife," has it both ways, scaring us by playing to our worse fears about religious fanaticism and exploring deep faith and belief, while delivering a solid and entertaining murder mystery to boot.