Now here comes Rick Perry challenging Mitt Romney’s record on job creation. The stats are definitely in his favor. Between June of ’09 and June of ’11, 50 percent of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas, making Texas No. 1 in job growth by a long shot.

Under Romney, Massachusetts’ record was terrible by comparison. The Bay State ranked 47th in job growth, with employment rising less than 1 percent from ’03 to ’07 — his years in office. The U.S. job growth rate, at this time, was 5 percent.

Gov. Perry clearly did better than Gov. Romney at creating jobs. But it is not two governors who will square off over the issue; it is two men with two lifetimes of experience to look at.

Ever since former President Clinton drummed the concept of net job creation into our heads with his mounting claims of the millions of jobs “I created,” we have become accustomed to monitoring this figure as evidence of executive economic skill. But, in this case, Romney can point to a lifetime of actually creating jobs while Gov. Perry can only cite his role in presiding over their creation as a head of state.

It’s quite a difference. Perry’s Texas has had historically low taxes for decades and is one of only a handful of states without an income tax. In 1970, for example, Texas had 11 million people and Michigan had 10 million. Now Texas has 25 million while Michigan cannot find jobs for its current population of 11 million. The credit for Texas’s low taxes belongs not just to Perry, but also to Govs. George W. Bush and Bill Clements before him. (A nod is even due Gov. Ann Richards in between.)

The job creation record is partially due to a surge in oil demand (one quarter of the new Texas jobs are in the energy sector) and some of the new jobs are due to the efforts of former Gov. (and client) Mark White in getting the chip research industry to locate in Austin in the ’80s.

Romney has actually, personally and financially, created tens of thousands of jobs. His record of buying companies, fixing them up, selling off the unprofitable parts and obtaining financing to grow the money-making parts is invaluable in helping us to get out of the current job-creation funk.

Any good Republican president will hold down taxes and block new regulations. But it may take a businessman with Romney’s skill set to dig down into the bureaucracy and understand precisely how bank regulation or EPA controls stop job creation. Romney needs to make the case that we need more than broad-brush policy strokes to get the job machine running again. It is not enough to have been a good driver of the economic engine. You need to be a mechanic who knows how it works.

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