Economic estimates reflecting a weak 1.5 percent growth rate in the second quarter quickly became a political football Friday, as Republicans used the stat to chastise President Obama over his economic policies and bolster warnings about “looming tax hikes” next year.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the economy grew at the 1.5 percent rate from April to June, as Americans cut back sharply on spending. The rate matched expectations — but expectations were low.

In a hastily convened conference call, the Mitt Romney campaign pointed to the figure as the latest sign the economy under Obama simply cannot produce enough growth to put millions of jobless Americans back to work.

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