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In an event Wednesday in Los Angeles, 2008 Republican presidential contender and presumed 2012 candidate Mitt Romney made remarks about President Barack Obama's handling of the economy that are likely to confound GOP-watchers. Romney, saying Obama "will be difficult to beat in 2012," expressed confidence that the Democratic president, against whom Romney will likely run in two years, will probably improve the economy by that time. Here's the key section, via GOP12:

I think President Obama will be difficult to beat in 2012, because I think an incumbent has extraordinary advantages. He will pull out all the stops, although he's pulled out so many stops at this point that there might not be a whole lot more to pull out in terms of federal reserve, interest rates and stimulus and so forth.

But he will do everything he can to get the economy going back again, and most likely -- at least in my view -- the economy will be coming back.

He will, you know, you can expect Vice President Biden to come out and say it was the President's great economic accomplishment that the economy has turned around, and of course, most of the people in this room will recognize it was in spite of much that was done in Washington that the economy has turned around. Recessions do end. The economy recovers. It always has. It always will.

That being said, however, they will take credit for the fact that things are getting better. That will help the President's reelection effort.

Why would Romney make the unprompted decision to hand Obama credit for the economy, which has been the Democrat's weakest spot in a 2010 election that is expected to be terrible for Obama's party? What's his plan?

  • Shifting the GOP Plan for 2012  Politico Ben Smith points out, "Romney suggests, then, that the campaign will be fought over Obama's identity, more or less, not the economy." Romney said after his remarks on the economy, "I think, however, that the American people have established a perspective on the President which is going to be lasting -- that he has not understood the nature of America, in some respects, that the values I've described of love of liberty, of freedom, of opportunity, of small government -- that those values he doesn't share."
  • He Just Messed Up  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait calls this "Romney's stimulus gaffe," explaining, "The interesting part of Romney's remarks is the implicit concession that government activism, including stimulus, can help restore the economy to health. I have no doubt that Romney understands this is true. But he seems to have forgotten the Republican line that the stimulus has either had no effect or made the economy worse."

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