GOP Presidential Contenders Pile on Obama for Historic Credit Downgrade

Republicans vying to replace President Obama next year wasted little time in pouncing on the news that the nation’s Triple-A credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history by Standard & Poor’s.

While the announcement late Friday wasn’t a surprise – the country has faced a possible downgrade since April – and the U.S. still maintains a top rating with the other two major credit rating agencies, the development offers fresh ammunition to the president’s opponents who have been relentless in hammering him on his economic record, which is seen as his greatest vulnerability.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a Tea Party darling, called on Obama to fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and quickly submit a plan to balance the budget, not just reduce deficits.

“This president has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling,” she said. “President Obama is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy one beam at a time.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said the nation’s creditworthiness was the "latest casualty" in Obama's failed economic leadership.

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“His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating,” he said. “President Obama promised that ‘things will get better.’ But it has become increasingly clear that the only way things will get better is with new leadership in the White House.”

The credit downgrade came just days after Washington reached a last-minute deal to extend the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for up to $2.4 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. S&P said the plan fell short of solving the country’s debt problem.

The White House said Saturday that the president over the next few weeks will "strongly encourage" members of Congress "to put our common commitment to a stronger recovery and a sounder long-term fiscal path above our political and ideological differences."

"The bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction was an important step in the right direction. Yet, the path to getting there took too long and was at times too divisive," the White House said. "We must do better to make clear our nation's will, capacity and commitment to work together to tackle our major fiscal and economic challenges."

The Treasury Department disputes the downgrade, saying the S&P analysis was fundamentally flawed.

“A judgment flawed by a $2 trillion error speaks for itself,” a Treasury spokesman said in a statement.

But that didn’t stop the GOP presidential hopefuls from attacking Obama.

“This is a sad moment for the United States, but it’s a reflection that our country is in trouble,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “President Obama is inept when it comes to creating the conditions or job creation and economic growth. It’s time for a new direction and a new president.”

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum called on Washington to pass a balanced budget amendment and mocked the Obama administration for disputing the S&P analysis.

“So, in addition to blaming President Bush for all of its problems, now the White House is blaming S&P – but this happened on the president’s watch – and he has to deal with it,” he said. “I guess President Obama is left to cling to the “hope” that a mathematical error caused this. Is that the ‘hope’ the president was talking about?”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who served as Obama’s ambassador to China until earlier this year blamed out-of-control spending and a poor leadership in Washington for the downgrade.

“For far too long we have let reckless government spending go unchecked and the cancerous debt afflicting our nation has spread,” he said.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul said if he is elected president, he will balance the federal budget in the first year of his term.

“I will fight to reduce taxes and remove unconstitutional regulations so that businesses can hire, Americans can get back to work and our economy can truly recover,” he said.