By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times –
ABINGDON, Va. — After a new jobs report bolstering President Barack Obama’s case that the U.S. job market is moving toward a recovery, Mitt Romney urged Virginia voters not to forget the anxiety and economic struggle that they have felt over the past four years — arguing that the country would fare better under his policies.
The morning report from the Labor Department — showing the unemployment rate dipping to 7.8 percent in September — punctured Romney’s buoyant ascent after his crisp performance in the debate that, at least for a moment, knocked Obama off stride.
Forced to abandon his line that unemployment has been above 8 percent throughout the president’s tenure in the White House, Romney noted that the unemployment rate had “come down very, very slowly” and spoke selectively about the jobs report — noting for example that fewer new jobs were created in September than in August.
“The reason it’s come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work,” the Republican presidential nominee said as he stood on the back of a flatbed truck before several thousand people who gathered in the dusty gravel yard of a machine shop.
“We don’t have to stay on the path we’ve been on. We can do better,” Romney said. “It looks like unemployment is getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent. That’s the real reality of what’s happening out there.”
The Republican presidential nominee criticized the president’s tax plans — arguing that his proposal for tax increases on higher-income earners would stunt the growth of small businesses and “kill jobs.”
“The middle class is being squeezed with higher and higher costs and with incomes that have gone down by $4,300 a family,” Romney said. “This can’t go on. I’ll tell you this, when I’m president of the United states — when I’m president of the United States — that unemployment rate is going to come down not because people are giving up and dropping out of the workforce but because we’re creating more jobs.”
The Obama campaign countered that businesses have added 5.2 million jobs in the past 2 1/2 years, and that joblessness is at its lowest level since January 2009.
“Romney won’t tell the truth because he knows his plans would pummel the middle class, taking us back to the same failed policies that caused the collapse and record job losses,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said. “The American people want to move forward, not back.”
In this coal-mining area near the Virginia-Tennessee border, Romney argued that his energy plans would help jump-start the local economy — and that taking advantage of U.S. resources could create as many as 4 million jobs.
“I know right now you’re thinking about one job: your job. I’m thinking of your job as well. Person by person,” Romney said. “I want to make sure your jobs stay here, grow here and provide a bright future for you and for your family.”