POLAND, Ohio — A sobering economic snapshot intensified the presidential campaign on Friday as President Barack Obama rolled through two vote-rich battleground states and Republican Mitt Romney fended off conservative complaints about his plan for winning.
A stand-pat jobless report that left the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent set a new standard from which to judge the president and for Romney to attempt to exploit with Election Day only four months away.
Obama, campaigning in Ohio, focused on private-sector job growth.
“Businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months , including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs,” Obama said. “That’s a step in the right direction.”
Romney’s reaction was biting.
“The president’s policies have not gotten America working again. And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it,” he said, adding, “This kick in the gut has got to end.”
The jobs report showed only 80,000 jobs created in June, a disappointing number that comes amid growing public anxiety about the economy and with Election Day just four months away.
Alan Krueger, the chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the jobs report shows the economy is continuing to heal with the private sector adding jobs for 28 straight months. But the 80,000 net jobs created are not enough to keep up with population growth and Krueger conceded more must be done to recover from the financial crisis and the recession.
Obama began the day going after votes over a little eggs and grits, taking up a stool at Ann’s Place, a local restaurant in Akron.
Romney was at his lake-side vacation home amid growing anxiety among conservatives that he was not being aggressive enough and was squandering his opportunity to win in November. Republicans worry that Obama’s attacks against Romney are taking their toll on the challenger and right-leaning leaders in business and the media say he is presenting a muddled case for his presidency despite a weak economy.
“I don’t say much to critics,” Romney told reporters, noting that he has issued a 59-point economic plan to counter the president.
On his tour, Obama was promoting policies that he says have helped states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, particularly the government bailout of Chrysler and General Motors.
“We saved an auto industry. That saved hundreds of thousands of jobs here in Ohio,” Obama said in an interview with NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati that was aired Friday. “We passed a health care law that’s going to mean security for Ohioans.”
Obama questioned Romney’s motives on health care in the same interview, accusing his rival of caving under pressure from conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh for saying that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance amounts to a tax.
Romney said Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled the requirement to buy health insurance was a tax, which amounted to a shift in his position. Earlier in the week, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney viewed the mandate as a penalty, a fee or a fine — not a tax.