Jobs news hurts Obama campaign07/07/2012 - 09:15:41
Another dose of bad economic news threatened Barack Obama’s re-election chances, offering Republican challenger Mitt Romney fresh ammunition to exploit just four months from election day.
An anaemic employment report yesterday kept America’s economic woes firmly at the top of voter anxieties in an election year when the economy is expected to be the decisive issue.
The Labour Department said US employers added only 80,000 jobs in June – a third straight month of weak recruiting – leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2%. That left no doubt that the US economy is struggling three years after the recession officially ended.
The report offered a new chance for Mr Romney to seize momentum and counter concern among prominent conservatives that he is squandering his chance to win the presidency with a play-it-safe strategy and a muddled message on the economy.
The former Massachusetts governor found himself in a less-than-optimal place for talking about the weak economy – on holiday with his family at his lakeside home in New Hampshire – a break that The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page said played into the “rich-guy” caricature that Democrats have tried to paint.
Mr Romney interrupted his holiday yesterday to react to the jobs report and issue a biting indictment of Mr Obama’s economic leadership, saying the president represented discredited liberal policies.
“This kick in the gut has got to end,” Mr Romney declared.
“American families are struggling, there’s a lot of misery in America today. The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it.”
Mr Obama positioned himself before the report to make the best of the bad news. He was on the second day of an Ohio-Pennsylvania bus tour, two hard-hit states that have made some recent economic advances and have jobless rates nearly a percentage point below the national average of 8.2%.
The president sought consolation from job growth by private business, calling it “a step in the right direction” and pleading with voters to stick with him.
“It’s still tough out there,” Mr Obama conceded to a campaign crowd in Poland, Ohio. Still, he noted that the private sector jobs created in June contributed to 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs.
He added: “We’ve got to grow the economy even faster and we have to put even more people back to work.”
On his tour, Mr Obama was promoting policies that he says have helped states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, particularly the government bailout of Chrysler and General Motors.
“We saved an auto industry. That saved hundreds of thousands of jobs here in Ohio,” he said in an interview with NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati.
But economic data continue to provide a mixed picture of the economic recovery. Weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped last week to the lowest number since the week of May 19. At the same time, retailers recorded tepid sales in June. And a report this week said US manufacturing shrunk in June for the first time in nearly three years, undermining a top Obama talking point.
Yesterday’s jobless report came amid already wavering public confidence about the economy. The percentage of people in an Associated Press-GfK poll last month that said the economy got better in the past month fell below 20% for the first time since the autumn. And few said they expected much improvement in the unemployment rate in the coming year.
Mr Romney has not been able to exploit that sentiment fully. In national polls, the president either retains a slight edge or is in a statistical tie with his challenger.
Republicans worry that Mr Obama’s attacks against Mr Romney are taking their toll on the challenger and right-leaning leaders in business and the media say he is presenting a hazy case for his presidency despite a weak economy.
“I don’t say much to critics,” Mr Romney told reporters, noting that he had issued a 59-point economic plan to counter the president.
Mr Obama criticised Mr Romney for pushing economic ideas that the president said have been tried without success before.
“They’re banking on the notion that you don’t remember what happened when they were in charge, the last time they were in charge of the White House,” Mr Obama said.
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