The Obama campaign argued on 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 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 Sunday 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 BLS.
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.Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.