US President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney launched a two-month sprint to the Nov. 6 election yesterday, hours after Obama closed the Democratic convention with an urgent plea for more time and patience to finish his economic agenda.
Obama’s high-stakes nationally televised acceptance speech for a second term capped two weeks of back-to-back nominating conventions for Obama and Romney.
The address opened the last phase of a White House battle that polls show is essentially deadlocked amid deep voter concerns about the economy, which the US president argued he had put on the road to recovery even though growth remained lackluster.
Both candidates were to hit the campaign trail yesterday as the US Labor Department released its jobless report for last month.
The report showed that only 96,000 jobs had been added last month, but the overall jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent. The net number of new jobs generated by the weak economy was lower than expected, and likely to strengthen the case at the US Federal Reserve for more action to boost growth. While the total number of official jobless fell to 12.5 million from 12.8 million people, the Labor Department’s data showed a sharp decline in the size of the labor force and a rise in those not looking for jobs.
Moreover, the duration of unemployment for those looking for job was little changed, with around 40 percent still searching for work for more than 27 weeks.
The details of the data show that Obama’s efforts to boost jobs around the country is still having little impact on the ground. However, the slight dip in unemployment bolsters his case that job growth is moving in the right direction, even if it has taken longer than expected to turn the economy around.
“Despite the frenzy of the conventions, Friday’s jobs numbers should not result in great political shifts despite great political scrutiny,” Republican strategist Tony Fratto said in a note to clients.
Obama and US Vice President Joe Biden were to head to the toss-up states of Iowa and New Hampshire for joint campaign events. Romney will head to those two states, which could be critical to piecing together the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
They are among eight to 10 battleground states that are likely to decide the election, a list that also includes Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Those states have been flooded by tens of millions of dollars in television advertisements by the campaigns, and hundreds of millions more from outside groups allied with both candidates.
The Romney camp announced that it would release 15 new television ads on the economy, called “A Better Future,” in eight states yesterday: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Polls show the economy is the top issue for voters, and Obama addressed their anxieties head on in his acceptance speech on Thursday.
“You elected me to tell you the truth, and the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades,” he said. “But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.”