WASHINGTON (AP) — Fresh signs of a national housing rebound and growing support in public opinion polls boosted President Barack Obama’s bid for a new term in the White House on Wednesday as Republican rival Mitt Romney struggled to quell his video controversy.
The challenger’s attempts to get his campaign back on track ran into new difficulty in the form of criticism from rank-and-file Republicans concerned about their own election prospects in the fall.
‘‘I have a very different view of the world,’’ said appointed Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, taking issue with Romney’s dismissive comments about the 47 percent of all Americans who pay no income taxes. Separately, Senate GOP leaders avoided answering questions about their presidential candidate at a news conference in the Capitol.
After days of virtually nonstop political damage control on issues foreign and domestic, Romney assured an audience at a Miami forum that ‘‘my campaign is about the 100 percent in America.’’
Earlier in the day, at an Atlanta fundraiser, Romney said: ‘‘The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He (Obama) does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class. I can. He can't.’’
The former Massachusetts governor spoke about 48 hours after a video emerged that showed him telling donors last May that as a candidate for the White House, ‘‘my job is not to worry about’’ the millions of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay income taxes.
Obama spent the day in the White House, a rarity in a race with less than seven weeks yet to run. He invited democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar to the Oval Office, a chat between two Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Romney raised campaign cash in Georgia in advance of his appearance on a forum hosted by the Spanish-language TV network Univision in battleground Florida, his first before a public audience since the emergence of the videotape. The opening portion of the forum focused on his videotaped comments before moving on to his reluctance to clarify his immigration policy and to his support for Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
Fellow Republicans have been pressuring Romney to campaign more extensively. The campaign was planning a more aggressive schedule of traditional campaign events in battleground states, including critical Ohio, as early as this weekend, a campaign adviser said. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans had not yet been announced formally.
In a campaign dominated all year by the sluggish economy, the government said construction of single-family homes jumped to the highest rate in more than two years. Separately, the National Association of Realtors reported that home sales rose last month to the highest level since May 2010.
Real estate has been among the slowest sectors of the economy to recover from the national downturn of 2008. The administration has struggled to reverse a decline in home values that left millions who managed to avoid foreclosure owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.
There was downbeat news, as well, in an economy struggling to create jobs. State officials in Michigan reported the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in August rose by four-tenths of a percent to 9.4 percent, well above the national average of 8.1 percent. Romney grew up in Michigan, but he has yet to contest it seriously in his quest for the White House.
A new AP-GfK poll €’’ taken before the Romney video was revealed €’’ put Obama’s overall approval rating among voting-age adults at 56 percent. That was above 50 percent for the first time since May, and at its highest level since the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden more than a year ago.
Among likely voters, however, the race was a statistical tie, with Obama at 47 percent and Romney at 46 percent.
The two were also tied statistically when it came to handling the economy and the federal deficit, while the president was preferred on issues of protecting the country, handling health care and understanding the problems of ‘‘people like you.’’ On a question of personal credibility, 50 percent of likely voters said Obama more often says what he really believes, while 42 percent said that applied to Romney.
At the same time, 61 percent of likely voters described the economy as poor, and only 22 percent described it as good more than 3 ½ years after Obama took office, another indication of the challenges he faces as he bids for a new term in a time of long-term unemployment over 8 percent nationally.Continued...