Romney: How does six percent unemployment by the end of my first term sound?

Normally I hate self-imposed benchmarks since there’s plenty of downside to them and little upside. But in this case, what does he have to lose?

Halperin: Would you like to be more specific about what the unemployment rate would be like at the end of your first year?

Romney: I can’t possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate will be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6%, and perhaps a little lower. It depends in part upon the rate of growth of the globe, as well as what we’re seeing here in the United States, but we’d get the rate down quite substantially, and frankly, the key is we’re going to show such job growth that there will be competition for employees again. And wages – we’ll see the end of this decline we’re having. The median income in America is down 10% in just the last four years. That’s got to stop. We’ve got to start seeing rising wages and job growth.

What are the odds that the U.S. economy won’t be able to shave two percentage points off the unemployment rate over four years with a much more pro-business regulatory regime to encourage it? There are various “black swan” events that could intervene to make that difficult/impossible, starting with a eurozone meltdown or soaring oil prices during a standoff with Iran, but in that case Romney will simply blame the failure of his prediction on the black swan. As it is, CBO already estimates that unemployment will reach seven percent by the end of 2015 and five and a half percent by the end of 2017, putting his six-percent figure by 2016 right in the ballpark.

Plus, look at it this way: If he’s able to knock only a percentage point or so off of unemployment during his first term, from roughly eight percent to seven, then come 2016 the fact that he broke a campaign promise will be a very minor footnote to the more important fact that he, er, was only able to knock a percentage point or so off of unemployment. The Unicorn Prince has already broken his own promise from early 2009 that he’d have the economy back on track within three years lest his presidency be a one-term proposition. (He’s broken a lot of other promises too, including/especially the implied promise to the left that he’d be dramatically different from Bush on the war on terror.) Most swing voters don’t care, though, I think; all they’ll want to know is how unemployment and GDP are trending come, say, September. If anything, I think Romney’s vulnerable to criticism here that, a la the CBO numbers, he’s not expecting as much economic improvement under his administration as some of his supporters are.

Nice to see someone in the media pressing him on an important subject, though. As a counterpoint to that, via Guy Benson, here’s how the public’s greeting WaPo’s atomic bombshell about Romney forcing a haircut on a classmate 50 years ago:

Exit question: Didn’t Romney suggest a few weeks ago that four percent unemployment should be the target? Click the image to watch.

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