• With: Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, James Freeman

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," August 4, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Romney campaign unveils a new economic pitch.

    Plus, is Mitt Romney like George W. Bush? That's what President Obama would have voters believe. But should you buy it?

    And stunning upsets by Chinese athletes in the Olympics. The politics of sports. Can a nation's greatness really be measured by the medal standings?

    Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    Democrats successfully used the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid," when Bill Clinton was running against then-President George Bush. That phrase hit a nerve with the American public. But this may be the time for Republicans to make that argument as the Labor Department releases the latest numbers on America's unemployed. A contradictory message of sorts on Friday as the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent, while 160,000 new jobs were added in July. The Romney camp wasting no time pushing their candidate's plan to rev up the economy, laying out his economic agenda to the Wall Street Journal this week.

    Joining the panel, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Washington Kim Strassel.

    Dan, with these new jobs numbers coming out a week after the second- quarter growth figures, a measly 1.5 percent growth, is the state of the economy now fixed in the voter mind for November?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR: I think so. I don't know whether it's fixed in the voters' minds. There may be some hope out there.

    GIGOT: Really?

    HENNINGER: The fact is it. These are the numbers on the state of the economy that we'll get between now and November.

    GIGOT: What does it tell you about that state?

    HENNINGER: Well, it tells me that they have to make a choice. They have to make a choice between the incumbent, Barack Obama, who, after all, has been president through this period. And he is on the defensive by definition. The economy has been this way and he's been president. And while we tend to personalize this, at least opponents for Barack Obama, being Obama. It doesn't -- if he were President X under these circumstances he could be JFK. Normally, you would not get reelected with those kinds of economic numbers. Now --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: So the reality is mediocre job growth, not enough to replace new entrants into the labor force, stagnant incomes.

    HENNINGER: Right.

    GIGOT: It's a slow growth. It's a very tough record to defend. Basically, that's the status. Basically, that's the status. That's -- that's --

    (CROSSTALK)

    HENNINGER: But he has to defend it. And to --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: Does he really?

    HENNINGER: Oh, I think so. Because if you've been president for four years, if -- he is trying to offload it on to his predecessor, which is a stretch, I think --

    (CROSSTALK)

    GIGOT: But that's different than defending it. That's saying it's still lousy, but it's his fault.

    HENNINGER: Well, this is the explanation --

    (LAUGHTER)

    HENNINGER: -- that he's trying to give. Now then the burden falls on the opponent, Mitt Romney, to give an explanation why he could do better than this president under these circumstances.

    GIGOT: OK, Kim, Mitt Romney now, after suffering some blows in advertising against him in June and July, now is going back on offense, rolls out his economic plan, at least a new way of framing it this week. What did you make of the pitch?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Well, he's out there. He's talking very much about the need to -- I mean, a lot of it is what he's said before. He's got to cut -- he's going to cut taxes and strip down the regulation and he's going to put the country looking forward ahead, and also deal with debt and entitlement and some of these. I mean, he's --

    (CROSSTALK)

    STRASSEL: Yes?

    GIGOT: Did you see, Kim, is there a new way he's putting it? Remember, he had 59 ideas, which Ed Rendell, the Democrat, called 56 too many. Is he kind of -- is he distilling that message down to a real two or three that the voters can latch on to?

    STRASSEL: Yes, he is. And that was what he absolutely needed to do. And he needed to also make this positive pitch for himself. He's been mostly on defense the entire time he's been running, either on defense on the Obama campaign going after him or just beating on the president himself and the president's failure. And now he's out there. He's distilling the message, making it much more clear, something that voters can get their head around, but also a positive message for himself.

    GIGOT: All right. Brother Freeman, what is the message? Distill it for me.

    JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Well --

    GIGOT: What is the Romney --

    (CROSSTALK)

    FREEMAN: It is the growth. And that's is the difference --

    (CROSSTALK)