GOP Candidates Blame Obama for Downgrade

ABC News’ Sarah Parnass reports:

Ahead of a big week in Iowa, Republican presidential candidates were abuzz with news of bond rating agency Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating this weekend.

Statements from the GOP competitors tied the fallen status to high unemployment, big government and “unsustainable debt.”

Most of the presidential hopefuls blamed President Obama for the downgrade and called – unsurprisingly – for new leadership.

“Tonight, I'm saddened for the millions out of work - but I'm hopeful that I will replace Barack Obama as President and get this country and its economy moving again,” Rick Santorum said in a statement released Saturday.

At an appearance in Concord, N.H. this morning, Mitt Romney said he did not think the downgrade was “simply the president’s fault,” the Boston Globe reported .

But in a statement where Romney highlighted his success with S&P when the agency upgraded Massachusetts’ credit rating during his term as governor, he called the economic situation under Obama, “meltdown.”

“The president’s failure to put the nation’s fiscal and economic house in order has caused a massive loss of confidence that resulted in an embarrassing downgrade,” Romney said in the statement.

Several candidates also cited a lack of immediate spending cuts in the debt ceiling deal as cause for the loss.

“As I have feared for months, the S&P has chosen to downgrade America's credit rating from AAA, which we have always enjoyed, to AA+. Perhaps this is because the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats never once demonstrated a willingness to propose its own ideas for meaningful spending cuts, something credit agencies signaled were necessary to redeem America's financial standing in the world,” Herman Cain said in a statement.

Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Gary Johnson and Jon Huntsman all used this as an opportunity to relaunch the idea of a balanced budget.

“This nation is spending more money than it takes in and the world knows it - now, it's time to show the world that the United States has the fortitude and resolve to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to stop out of control spending and shrink the scope of government once and for all,” Santorum said in a statement.

Though Bachmann did not ask for a change up in executive leaders, she called on Obama “to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has since said that the president has asked Geithner to stay on as Treasury Secretary, and Geithner released a statement on Sunday, saying he would not leave .

The Gingrich campaign remained mum on the credit rating, but the candidate summed up most of his opponents’ remarks on the downgrade via Twitter.

“The Obama disaster continues. Highest food stamp level and lowest credit rating in history in the same 24 hours.” @NewtGingrich tweeted Friday night.

Outside the presidential arena, House Speaker John Boehner blamed “decades of reckless spending,” seemingly absolving President Obama of some responsibility. On the other hand, he blamed Washington Democrats for being “unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.”

“It is my hope this wake-up call will convince Washington Democrats that they can no longer afford to tinker around the edges of our long-term debt problem. As S&P noted, reforming and preserving our entitlement programs is the ‘key to long-term fiscal sustainability,’” Boehner said in a statement.

In an interview this morning Head of S&P’s debt rating unit David Beers told Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos that he “absolutely” does not have second thoughts about downgrading the U.S. Though the Obama administration alleges that the rating agency made a $2 trillion math error in calculating the federal debt over 10 years, Beers said there was no such error.

“These are about long term projections, they are about highly technical assumptions related to Congressional Budget Office base lines about debt growth now and in the future,” he said. “So under our current projections, for example, the way we measure net public debt in the U.S. This year the debt is going to be about $11 trillion. We’re projecting it’s going to about $15 trillion in 2015 and we expect it to exceed $20 trillion in 2021.”

Watch the interview with Beers HERE .

In an interview with “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour, S&P Managing Director John Chambers suggested that rebuilding the U.S. credit rating could take years.

“If history is our guide, it could take awhile," Chambers said. "The political gridlock in Washington leads us to conclude that policymakers don't have the ability to put the public finances of the U.S. on a sustainable footing."

Watch the interview with Chambers HERE .

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