US President Barack Obama and Republican foe Mitt Romney yesterday awaited the last monthly jobs data before their tied-up election, ahead of a frenzied rush through must-win state Ohio.
The rivals, back at one another’s throats after a truce during superstorm Sandy, are to hold five rallies between them in the industrial battleground, which will play a huge role in deciding who claims the White House on Tuesday.
Both sides were braced for the last official government unemployment data before the election, which could provide a final twist to a dramatic last month of the campaign rocked by combative debates and Sandy’s wrath.
Though the weak economy is the top issue of the electoral race, many analysts believe that with so few undecided voters left, the Labor Department data will not be decisive.
However, if the unemployment rate were to rise from its current 7.8 percent level after a big fall last month, it could bolster Romney’s argument that Obama is out of ideas to fire up the sluggish economy.
However, another drop in the rate could validate Obama’s pitch to wavering voters that he saved the country from a second Great Depression in 2009 and is now poised to deliver a return to prosperity.
Obama on Thursday appeared on the campaign trail for the first time since Sandy made landfall on Monday with hurricane force winds and flood tides along the northeast coast, killing at least 92 people.
“Even in the midst of tragedy, the situation on the East Coast has also inspired, because it reminds us that when disaster strikes, we see America at its best,” Obama said in Wisconsin.
“All the petty differences that consume us in normal times somehow melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm, just fellow Americans — leaders of different parties working to fix what’s broken,” he added.
Obama leapt at the opportunity to showcase his leadership skills during the storm as he marshaled the federal government’s emergency response effort.
Obama toned down some of the raw partisanship of his recent electoral message, but moved to stop Romney appropriating the change mantle he used to win the White House in 2008.
“Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we’ve been cleaning up after for the past four years — and he is offering them up as change,” Obama said.
“What the governor is offering sure ain’t change. Getting more power back to the biggest banks isn’t change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn’t change,” he added.
Romney, struggling to recapture the initiative after being sidelined by Sandy, made three stops in battleground Virginia, where he sought to refocus the race on his strongest argument: the listless economy.
“I know the Obama folks are chanting ‘four more years,’” Romney told supporters in Roanoke, Virginia. “But our chant is this: ‘Five more days!’”
With Romney’s team confident it can score at least a few upset victories in Democrat-leaning states, his campaign said the Republican would stump for votes in Pennsylvania tomorrow, just 48 hours before election day.
Pennsylvania has been in Obama’s column for months, with the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls showing the incumbent up 4.6 percentage points in the large, eastern state.