• With: Dan Henninger; Jason Riley, Kim Strassel, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Matt Kaminski

    ROMNEY: It's time to stand up to the cheaters and make sure we protect jobs for the American people.

    AD ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama, failing to stop cheating, failing American workers.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: Jason, does this turn the economic argument around?

    (LAUGHTER)

    RILEY: Blaming China for U.S. unemployment? No. This is economic populism. It's unfortunate. No one really believes that Romney would actually go through with what he's threatening to do in terms of countervailing duties. China is one of our largest trading partners. And starting a trade war with one of your largest trading partners is not good for American prosperity, Paul.

    GIGOT: Dan, we've watched campaigns over the years and I've seen this protectionist argument offered time and time again, most often by Democrats. And it always polls well when you look at the polls, but it doesn't drive votes because somehow people look the at it as a sour and they make the same kind of judgment as Jason, you know what, blaming China for our problems, that's not what we need. We need to improve American competiveness.

    HENNINGER: That's right. There's no example of this trade gambit working. He ism in effect, giving Obama -- letting him off the hook by separating, as he says, it's not my fault. It's either George Bush's fault or the Chinese. Mitt Romney's got to run straight at Obama's specific policies and take them apart and explain why Obama has contributed to the high unemployment.

    GIGOT: Kim, briefly. Is this ad aimed at, I guess, working class voters, anxious voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, places like that?

    STRASSEL: It is, except for it strikes me -- it's an ad from a weak campaign, OK? When you have to resort to talking about American anxiety, whipping up the voters, over, you know, the China menace, you're not on offence. You're not out there making a case for your own presidency. It's disturbing that they've gotten to this, at this point, in the campaigns.

    GIGOT: All right.

    Still ahead, the polls may be looking up for the president, but the hard numbers paint a different picture. Some new Census Bureau findings spell bad news for the administration and the American middle class. We'll have the details when we come back.

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: Well, recent polls may show President Obama making some inroads with the public when it comes to his handling of the economy. But some new numbers released this week can't be good news for the administration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income fell again in 2011 and the number of Americans living in poverty remained at a near record high of 15 percent.

    We're back with Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, and Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

    So, Jason, not a good story from the annual census report.

    RILEY: No. No. As you mentioned, the poverty rate itself, not much moved, but incomes down again, despite productivity increases, Paul. And again, it's more evidence that the problem is the slowness of this recovery.

    GIGOT: Yes, this --

    (CROSSTALK)

    RILEY: Nobody expected Obama to bring us back to where we were prior to his election. But how are we doing in terms of the recovery? More evidence that it's just not there. It's just not there.

    GIGOT: Mary?

    O'GRADY: I'm a little surprised that anyone is surprised.

    (LAUGHTER)

    Because if you look at -- what's driving this is unemployment. And you're out of work, you're not having an income, your household income is going to fall. And unemployment over 8 percent for an extended period of time. We have underemployment around 15 percent. We have 40.7 percent of people who are out of work, have been out of work for more than 27 weeks. Fewer Americans are working today than they were in 2000, even though there's 31 more --

    GIGOT: That's an amazing statistic.

    O'GRADY: -- million people.

    GIGOT: That's an amazing statistic.

    O'GRADY: This is going to make people poor.

    (LAUGHTER)

    HENNINGER: Well, Jason, it's true that the property statistic didn't change all that much. But according to the Census Bureau itself, 46 million remained in poverty. This is the highest in 53 years, since the bureau has been collecting this statistic. This is what happens with a low-growth economy. Life grows flat all the way across the board. Growth across the quarter, 1.5 percent.

    GIGOT: But the administration says this shows -- this report also shows that Obama-care is working because the health care -- number of people covered increased marginally and the number of people insurance, 0.6 percent.

    HENNINGER: Yes. The Obama campaign is just so shrewdly exploiting the numbers. And on one hand, Obama-care is working. But on the other hand, there's all this economic anxiety out in the land, the Census Bureaus are proving that, and I'm here to provide you with more subsidized health care, more subsidized tuitions, more subsidized infrastructure. It's really quite brilliant.

    (CROSSTALK)

    HENNINGER: And if it goes unanswered.

    RILEY: Paul, I just want to make one point. You mentioned exploitation. I want to make a point about race. The poverty rate in America, 15 percent. For blacks, 27 percent. Median black household incomes also fell. And the poverty rate among blacks actually went up, unlike for the rest of the country. And I say this because this president is making a concerted effort to turn out the black vote, calling Republicans racists for favoring voting I.D. laws and the like, sending the attorney general out there, sending his the vice president out there to make blunt racial appeals. But when you look at his actual record, how blacks have fared under his presidency, this is what you see.

    GIGOT: I should point out that in health care, Obama-care didn't kick in with its subsidies until 2014.

    HENNINGER: Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

    O'GRADY: Yes, but I'll tell you, Dan's point about -- you made the point that more people are covered by health care. Who are those people? Those are the 20-somethings who can't get jobs, who are lying around in their childhood bedrooms, and now are carried on their parent's insurance.

    GIGOT: Or are on Medicaid.