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Obama uses positive jobs report to make case against Romney

 

President Barack Obama used Friday's new jobs report showing that the unemployment rate had fallen below 8 percent to warn voters in battleground Virginia against electing Mitt Romney as president.

The monthly jobs survey issued this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the economy added 114,000 jobs in September, and that the economy added 86,000 more jobs in July and August than had been initially estimated. Most significantly, the unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent last month -- the lowest point since Obama first took office.

"This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office," the president said at a campaign rally in northern Virginia.

White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe reacts to the new job numbers and some Democratic dismay over Denver's debate.

The new economic data was welcome news for Obama, whose performance in Wednesday's presidential debate prompted hand-wringing from Democrats, who said the president wasn't aggressive enough versus Romney. Friday's data offered Obama an opportunity to play offense on the issue of the economy, the No. 1 issue in the election and a topic on which he often plays defense versus Romney.

"Today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now," Obama said. "I can't allow that to happen. I won't allow that to happen, and that is why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States."

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The report was politically significant in that, for the first time, the unemployment rate fell below 8 percent -- an important psychological barrier, especially since Romney has made frequent reference to the tally of months during which the jobless rate has been above that threshold.

Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama waves during a campaign event on October 5, 2012 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

Romney has made the anemic economic recovery his primary argument in prosecuting the case against Obama. He said the only reason that the unemployment rate had declined was due to people dropping out of the workforce.

"There were fewer new jobs created this month than last month," Romney said while campaigning Friday in Virginia.

"The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have stopped looking for work," added the Republican presidential hopeful. He argued that while it "looks like unemployement is getting better," the real jobless rate would be closer to 11 percent if the workforce hadn't shrunk during Obama's time in office.

The BLS report was the penultimate monthly update on the U.S. employment situation before the election. The jagged rate of recovery has caused heartburn for Obama in his bid for re-election -- particularly some disappointing reports in the late spring -- offered Romney ammunition to use against the president.

NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro discuss whether or not a positive jobs report will boost President Obama after a disappointing debate.

In those months, Obama saw public opinion toward the state of the economy and his management of it sour to a degree in public polling.

It has also been growing confidence in the economy that helped contribute to the president's advantage over Romney in late summer and through September.

Forty-four percent of voters said in the most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll that they believed the economy would improve over the next year, improved from 27 percent of voters who expressed such an opinion in the July edition of the poll.

The Obama campaign has also sought to erode Romney's advantage on the economy with rounds of blistering ads questioning the Republican nominee's experience in private equity, and how Romney manages his own personal wealth.

But Romney still held an edge over Obama in this week's NBC-WSJ poll. Forty-five percent of voters said they thought Romney would better manage the economy, versus 42 percent who said the same of Obama.