The Obama campaign argued Sunday that the latest jobs report, showing a national unemployment rate under 8 percent for the first time since the president took office, has undermined Mitt Romney’s central message.
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod even suggested that some Romney backers were rooting for bad news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, believing that as unemployment rises, so does the Republican nominee’s political prospects.
“I understand that for some who support Governor Romney, it was disappointing that the economy is improving, that that number ticked down,” Axelrod said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
From the outset, Romney’s presidential campaign has been based largely on President Obama’s economic shortcomings, in general, and the persistently high unemployment rate, specifically.
“Three years later, unemployment is still above 8 percent,” Romney said in Stratham, N.H., on June 2, 2011, the day he announced his candidacy.
In closing remarks at last Wednesday’s debate, Romney reminded voters that “we’ve had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.”
But with Friday’s news that unemployment has dipped to 7.8 percent, the Republican nominee has been forced to modify an attack he has levied countless times.
“I think what it does do is rob Governor Romney of one of the talking points you heard in the last debate,” Axelrod said. “You know, for months he was running around the country, saying, ‘Well, this president’s lost jobs.’ Well, no, now we’ve net gained jobs under this president.”
In fact, total nonfarm employment remains 61,000 jobs below where it stood in January 2009, when Obama took office.
But there are 4.3 million more jobs now than there were in February 2010, according to the bureau.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy on NBC’s “Meet the Press” accused the Obama campaign of “trying to start a parade about economic statistics” that basically show a return to the conditions on Obama’s inauguration day.
Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said on ABC’s “This Week” that the new jobs report is nothing to celebrate.
“The numbers themselves are very damning,” Gillespie said. “When you look at it, there were fewer jobs created in September than were created in August, fewer jobs created in August than were created in July.”
“If labor force participation was what it was when the president took office, unemployment would be around 10.7 percent,” he added.
Obama down on debate performance
Aides to President Obama said Sunday that Obama was disappointed by his own performance at last week’s debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Denver.
“I think the president understood that he hadn’t performed up to his own expectations pretty quickly after he got off the stage that night,” Robert Gibbs, an Obama campaign adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The president is his harshest critic,” David Axelrod, another adviser, added on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And without getting into detail, I think you can assume that he has reviewed the tape, and it will inform how he handles these subsequent debates.”
The advisers were grilled about some specific criticisms of the president: that he appeared unprepared, spent too much time looking down at notes, and didn’t use some of his best weapons.
Axelrod said Obama did not mention Romney’s now-infamous remarks about the roughly 47 percent of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes because he “didn’t see the appropriate opportunity.”
“I mean, I think the president was earnestly trying to answer questions that were asked on the topics that were being discussed,” Axelrod said. “And he didn’t find the opportunity to raise it.”
Axelrod said Obama did “plenty of homework” before the debate and said he is “happy to take whatever responsibility people want to assign to me” for Obama’s debate showing. On looking down, Axelrod said, “the president was taking notes on what was being said because he wanted to make sure that he was responsive.”
Gibbs, who also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” offered backhanded compliments to Romney. He said Romney “had a masterful theatrical performance” and “did everything but learn tap dance,” but also said the “underpinnings and foundations of that performance were fundamentally dishonest.”