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Obama speech in Jax underscores battle over the economy

The tweet from Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry summed up the GOP challenge as President Obama travels to the port of Jacksonville on Thursday to tout the economy and underscore the plight of the middle class.

“@BarackObama in Jax on TH, but it’s @FLGovScott who helped middle class w/JAXPORT $,” Curry wrote.

In the last year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature steered $38 million in state transportation money to help deepen a crucial port channel needed for large cargo ships. It is a loan to keep the project moving forward until the federal government completes the lengthy authorization process and starts writing the checks, port officials said.

The theme — steering credit for successes in the state’s economy to the governor while blaming the president for holding it back — is going to be a recurring one for Curry as Scott seeks re-election in the next year.

But economists say that while Obama and Scott have played a role in the economic recovery, it is the Federal Reserve that deserves most of the credit. The federal monetary policy that has kept interests rates low has revved up Florida’s stagnant housing market, provided a lift to the construction industry and helped to reduce unemployment, said two promiment state economists.

Consumers are more optimistic in Florida than they have been since the onset of the recession, said Chris McCarty, an economist at the University of Florida, and the reason is primarily the rise in housing prices. But can Scott or Obama take credit for the uptick in housing prices?

“Most people would argue the answer is no,’’ he said. “Credit Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.” More here.