Republican nominee Mitt Romney worked to undercut a better-than-expected jobs report and President Barack Obama touted his largest monthly fundraising haul, as the candidates grappled for advantage in a tight presidential race.
Romney, seeking to capitalize on an aggressive debate performance against Obama and question evidence of a U.S. economic recovery, told voters the true unemployment picture is much worse than the 7.8 percent jobless rate reported on Oct. 5, the lowest since Obama took office.
“If we calculated, by the way, our unemployment rate in a way that was consistent with the way it was calculated when he came into office, it would be a different number,” Romney told more than 6,000 people at an outdoor rally last night in Apopka, Florida. “You see, if the number of people -- if the percentage of the American population who were in the workforce were the same today as the day he was elected, our unemployment rate would be above 11 percent. This is inexcusable.”
Romney appeared to be referring to the workforce- participation rate, which was 63.6 percent last month, compared with 65.7 percent in January 2009. That figure isn’t incorporated into the monthly unemployment number released by the government, and wasn’t before Obama took office.
Obama’s campaign, working to recover from his lackluster performance against Romney at the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver, said the president and allied Democratic Party committees raised $181 million in September, the largest monthly total in his re-election effort.
The president’s campaign announced the number yesterday on the social-networking site Twitter. It came a day after the jobs report showed the decline in the unemployment rate in September, offering Obama an opening to refute Romney’s central charge that he has failed to create jobs.
The Obama campaign said it received donations from 1.8 million people last month, including 567,000 first-time donors. The campaign has received more than 10 million contributions from 3.9 million individuals.
For the second consecutive day, Romney downplayed the unemployment report and said the drop in the jobless rate obscured a bleak economic reality that only appears to be improving because people are abandoning their search for work.
Still, the Labor Department reported the portion of the population either employed or actively applying for jobs, which in August reached its lowest level since 1981, rose last month. The economy has added 4.3 million jobs since February 2010.
Concern Over Romney
Romney has yet to announce his September fundraising totals in advance of the Oct. 20 deadline. Some Republicans close to his campaign had been concerned after their party convention in late-August that contributors were holding back as Romney trailed Obama in the polls and was consumed with several weeks of negative coverage.
That included a leaked video in which he dismissed 47 percent of Americans as government-dependent “victims” who wouldn’t take responsibility for their lives or vote for him.
Romney disavowed that statement on Oct. 4 in an interview with Fox News, calling it “completely wrong,” and has since been going out of his way to tell voters he cares about all of them and considers them hard-working.
“Person by person, every American deserves a good job,” he said in Abingdon, Virginia, an area in the southwestern part of the state that has been hard-hit by coal industry layoffs. “People are hard-working right here in this community. I want to make sure your jobs stay here, grow here and provide a bright future for you and for your family.”
He also has been offering voters more glimpses of his personal side as he works to present himself as a likeable alternative to Obama.
In Apopka last night, Romney told stories of friends he has lost, including a terminally ill teenage boy who asked him to help draft his will, and a quadriplegic friend whom Romney told “I love you” the day before he died.
“It’s rare that you get the chance to tell somebody you love them while you still can,” Romney said.
That tone contrasts with an increasingly bitter television advertising campaign in which both candidates have been accusing each other of misleading the public.
“When the cameras rolled, a performance began; but the problem is, that’s all it was,” says a new Obama campaign commercial that plays footage of Romney at the Denver debate. It charges that Romney lied about his policies in saying that his tax plan doesn’t amount to a $5 trillion cut and his health plan would cover everyone with pre-existing conditions.
“America needs a president with character, not a politician who just plays one,” the ad concludes.
That message was reinforced by Robert Gibbs, an adviser to Obama, on ABC television’s “This Week” program today.
Romney’s performance at the debate was “fundamentally dishonest for the American people,” Gibbs said. “If you’re willing to say anything to get elected president, if you are willing to make up your positions and walk away from them, I think the American people have to understand, how can they trust you if you are elected president.”
Romney’s campaign produced an advertisement asserting that it was Obama who was misrepresenting the Republican’s proposals.
“President Obama continues to distort Mitt Romney’s economic plan,” the spot says. “The latest? Not telling the truth about Mitt Romney’s tax plan.”
The fundraising total Obama’s campaign disclosed yesterday includes his campaign committee as well as the Democratic National Committee and state parties, which can take in larger contributions than the candidate.
Through Aug. 31, Obama’s campaign committee brought in $441.3 million to $283.6 million for Romney, and had $88.8 million to spend entering the fall campaign. That compares with $50.4 million in the Republican nominee’s campaign bank account. When the aligned political parties and super-political action committees were added in, Romney entered September with more cash to spend, $165 million to $101 million.
Yesterday’s announcement didn’t break down how much money went to the campaign committee, directly controlled by Obama’s re-election team, and how much went to the party committees. Nor did it provide a cash-on-hand figure. That information is due at the Federal Election Commission Oct. 20.
In September 2008, Obama, the first major-party nominee since the Watergate scandal in the 1970s to shun federal funding for the general election, pulled in $153 million and the Democratic National Committee raised a further $42 million for a total of $195 million. Both Obama and Romney this year have declined federal funding and are financing their campaigns totally with private donations.
To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Orlando, Florida at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at firstname.lastname@example.org