U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday attacked President Barack Obama for August’ s below expectations U.S. jobs report, charging that Mr Obama had not lived up to his promises by presiding over months of high unemployment. The two presidential campaigns traded policy barbs throughout the day on Friday, as the news cycle was dominated by the monthly US Department of Labour report that was largely received as disappointing.
Although the US unemployment rate ticked down to 8.1 per cent in August, non-farm payrolls rose by only 96,000 in August, significantly below market expectations of around a 125,000 job increase. Furthering the disappointment, the Department of Labour also revised down the employment numbers from the previous June and July reports by a combined total of 41,000 jobs. The Department of Labour additionally noted that both the civilian labour force and the labour force participation rate declined in August, meaning that some individuals became so discouraged they stopped looking for employment entirely.
The Romney campaign was quick to capitalize on the poor jobs report, hoping to take away some momentum from the Democratic National Convention (DNC) staged only the night before, when Mr Obama had given the climactic headlining address.
In a statement sent out immediately following the Department of Labour release, Mr Romney blamed the soft employment numbers on Mr Obama’ s economic policies, and contrasted Thursday night’ s enthusiasm at the DNC with Friday morning’ s data. “If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover,” Mr Romney said in the statement, a jab at the President’ s speech the night before. “This is more of the same for middle class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. After 43 straight months of unemployment above eight per cent, it is clear that President Obama just hasn’t lived up to his promises and his policies haven’t worked,” Mr Romney continued.
In an afternoon appearance in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Friday, President Obama countered back by praising the August jobs report as the 30th consecutive month of job creation, compared to around the 800,000 per month of job losses recorded when he first took office. But while Mr Obama championed the total of 4.6 million jobs created over his presidency, he acknowledged to supporters that the path was not easy, and argued that it was “going to take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that were building up over decades.” Mr Obama also called on Republicans in Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, which he said would immediately create 1 million new jobs, and then returned to the themes similar to those of his DNC address, such as tax cuts for middle income Americans, Medicare, clean energy and education.
But meanwhile at a Romney campaign event also on Friday afternoon, Mr Romney remarked that he was “surprised” by the topics outlined in Mr Obama’ s DNC speech, charging that the president shied away from the facts of the current economy, and instead only offered empty promises.
“I was surprised by his address because I expected him to confront the major challenge of the last four years, which is an economy which has not produced the jobs that the American people need,” Mr Romney told supporters, again placing the focus of his campaign on the sluggish U.S. economy.
“Instead, it was a whole series of new promises which he also won’t be able to keep because the policies he believes in and the direction he’s pulling will not make America stronger,” Mr Romney continued, pledging he would get the economy moving again and offering voters his own promise that he would create 12 million new jobs by the end of his first term.
While Mr Obama enjoys an advantage over Mr Romney in personal favourability, the President has been shown by recent polls to be weak in voters’ perceptions on his ability to handle the economy. Mr Romney is therefore likely to continue to hammer the president on the US unemployment rate and slow economic recovery, as he hopes to gain the upper hand in the American presidential race.
According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released August 21, 44 per cent of respondents said they thought Mr Romney had better ideas to fix the economy, compared to 38 per cent who thought that Mr Obama did. Mr Obama meanwhile topped the likeability category, with those surveyed favouring him a full 58 per cent to Mr Romney’ s 23 per cent.
Overall, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gave Obama a four percentage point lead in the presidential race, with respondents polled at 48 per cent for Mr Obama and 44 per cent for Mr Romney.