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President Barack Obama high-five a young girls while meeting with supporters after speaking at a campaign event at Franklin County Fairgrounds in Hilliard, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Obama, Romney compete for mantle of change
Presidential politics » Job growth accelerating even as unemployment rate increases.
First Published Nov 02 2012 10:44 am • Last Updated Dec 27 2012 11:01 am

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney each claimed the mantle of change as a Labor Department report this morning showed job gains accelerating even as the unemployment rate ticked up.

The last employment report before the election, released at 8:30 a.m., showed employers hiring more workers in October than forecasters anticipated. Payrolls grew by a net 171,000 jobs after a 148,000 gain in September. The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent as more Americans began actively seeking jobs.

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"The report looks like good economic news to me," said Christopher Wlezien, a political science professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and co-author of the book "The Timeline of Presidential Elections." He added, "I can’t see it hurting the president and I think it could help him on the campaign trail through the weekend and, most importantly, on Election Day itself."

Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement that the jobs figures provide "further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

Romney emphasized that the unemployment rate in October was higher than the 7.8 percent jobless rate when Obama took office in January 2009, saying in a statement that the report "is a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill."

Advertising Battle • Ahead of the jobs report the two campaigns and their supporters engaged in an aggressive broadcast advertisement battle.

Romney’s campaign is running a Spanish-language ad in Florida, the biggest of the battleground states, claiming Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a niece of Fidel Castro support Obama. That ad features a clip of Chavez saying, if he could vote in this election, he would cast his ballot for Obama.

Priorities USA, the super-political action committee backing Obama, is running an ad that seeks to connect Florida Governor Rick Scott, co-founder and chief executive officer of a company that committed the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history, to Romney’s previously reported role as a director of a company that defrauded Medicare. "Connect the dots," the ad’s narrator says.

Battleground States

Florida is one of nine states where the two candidates are concentrating their political fire in a final burst of campaigning to make their closing arguments to voters in the remaining days until Nov. 6. Over the next few days one or both candidates also will be in Ohio, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada and Pennsylvania as they look for a path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

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The president got a boost with an endorsement yesterday from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who cited Obama’s stances on "issues that will help define our future," including climate change, health care, education and gay rights.

In an opinion piece written by the mayor and published on Bloomberg View, he said devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy brought the stakes of the Nov. 6 election "into sharp relief."

Vice President Joe Biden played a crucial role in securing the mayor’s endorsement, with a final phone call early this week to close the deal, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity to discuss it.

Bloomberg, a political independent, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.

Wisconsin, Ohio • Romney today plans stops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Etna, Ohio. Obama is spending the day campaigning in Ohio, an indicator of the importance the state will play on Election Day. No Republican presidential candidate has won election without carrying Ohio.

Both candidates yesterday picked up the theme that Obama used in his 2008 campaign.

"This is a time for big change, for real change," Romney said, as he addressed supporters in Roanoke, one of three stops he made yesterday in Virginia. "I’m going to make real changes."

Obama, during stops in Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado, countered that the former Massachusetts governor wants to return to policies of former President George W. Bush’s administration and accused Romney of switching positions on issues to get elected.

"My opponent can talk about change, but I know what real change looks like," Obama told a crowd in North Las Vegas. "I’ve fought for it. I’ve got the scars to prove it."

Economy Focus • After days of news dominated by the wreckage caused by Atlantic superstorm Sandy and a final debate focused on foreign policy, both men zeroed in on the economy, which remains the central issue for most voters.

Along with today’s jobs report, Obama was buoyed by positive economic news yesterday when the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence rose to a four-year high and new unemployment claims fell.

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