I have no reason to doubt that Mitt Romney’s math purporting to show how he’ll create 12 million jobs is bogus.

First of all, the studies on which the figure is based have longer timelines than the first term, which is the assumed time frame for the job creation. Romney’s claim of 7 million jobs created from his tax plan (and it’s a claim with little basis in reality) is based on a ten-year timeline.

The 3 million jobs created from oil and gas drilling is based on an eight-year timeline, and derived from policies already adopted. And anyway, 12 million jobs created over the next four years approaches the baseline expectation for job creation under current policy.

That said, it sounds suspiciously like a plan. We sadly don’t have a media that disqualifies candidates for using bogus math or flawed studies (though Romney skirts that line). We do have a public which has waited patiently for the economy to improve. Though consumer confidence has ticked up, as well as the outlook for the economic future, the public still expects candidates for Presidents to have some plan, especially when there remains a fragility to the economic picture.

And it’s here, not in the listlessness or taking of notes, where Obama fell down during the first debate. He didn’t offer much of an actual plan for the future. Indeed, he has trimmed his sails and rolled up most of the ambitions from the first term. He can talk about the futility of Mitt Romney’s plans, but he has decided to massively under-promise, in line with some lesson learned about Washington and its challenges. The Obama plan for a sick economy doesn’t offer anything voters can grab onto.

I have no reason to doubt that Mitt Romney’s math purporting to show how he’ll create 12 million jobs is bogus.

First of all, the studies on which the figure is based have longer timelines than the first term, which is the assumed time frame for the job creation. Romney’s claim of 7 million jobs created from his tax plan (and it’s a claim with little basis in reality) is based on a ten-year timeline. The 3 million jobs created from oil and gas drilling is based on an eight-year timeline, and derived from policies already adopted. And anyway, 12 million jobs created over the next four years approaches the baseline expectation for job creation under current policy.

That said, it sounds suspiciously like a plan. We sadly don’t have a media that disqualifies candidates for using bogus math or flawed studies (though Romney skirts that line). We do have a public which has waited patiently for the economy to improve. Though consumer confidence has ticked up, as well as the outlook for the economic future, the public still expects candidates for Presidents to have some plan, especially when there remains a fragility to the economic picture.

And it’s here, not in the listlessness or taking of notes, where Obama fell down during the first debate. He didn’t offer much of an actual plan for the future. Indeed, he has trimmed his sails and rolled up most of the ambitions from the first term. He can talk about the futility of Mitt Romney’s plans, but he has decided to massively under-promise, in line with some lesson learned about Washington and its challenges. The Obama plan for a sick economy doesn’t offer anything voters can grab onto.

Obama campaign officials insist that they have an agenda. They want to create a million new manufacturing jobs, hire 100,000 new math and science teachers, and require the rich to pay a bit more in taxes to protect our most important public investments.

Sorry, but I don’t buy it. The guy who ran in 2008 to change, well, almost everything, isn’t enduring the grind of another presidential campaign to give the manufacturing sector a modest push. Obama hasn’t forgotten his more ambitious goals on climate change or campaign finance reform or the American Jobs Act. He has just stopped mentioning them.

As I wrote last week, Elizabeth Warren’s consistent invocations of the American Jobs Act appear to have served her well in her race in Massachusetts. That’s not quite an example of the country at large, but the disappearance of the only concrete near-term jobs plan from the President’s toolkit is nothing short of remarkable. He likely doesn’t feel it can pass, and indeed he seems poised to let the only part of it that got through – the payroll tax cut – expire. This alleged pragmatism has left the public extremely cold on whether the President has any ideas left. He certainly didn’t show much of them in that first debate.

The Obama campaign to date has entirely looked outward, focusing on Romney’s programs, Romney’s plans, Romney’s ideas. Small wonder that the public got the message on who has programs, plans and ideas, and it just took a little ju-jitsu from Romney to cobble together with spit and paper clips an image of competence.

Maybe you think that Obama’s record is worth running on, or maybe not. Politically speaking, there are ways to run on either of those scenarios, either touting successes or castigating a do-nothing Congress and offering a vision and a plan. Democrats appear to have gotten Republican primary debate disease. They laugh and point at the spectacle, without remembering that you have to give people something to believe in.

It’s best if you run for political office on a record and an agenda. In the absence of either, even a distorted record and a fuzzy agenda will start to look good.

David Dayen

David Dayen