Obama, spokesmen step up the politicking

First lady also starts stumping for president’s re-election

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The Obama re-election effort shifted into a higher gear over the weekend, with the president and the first lady leading rallies at colleges in Ohio and Virginia on Saturday.

On Sunday, the vice president and top campaign adviser David Axelrod defended the administration on everything from the killing of Osama bin Laden to the latest jobless numbers.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden said that Friday’s disappointing unemployment report — only 115,000 jobs were created — needs to be viewed in the context of the economy the Obama administration inherited.

“There were 4 million jobs lost in the six months or so before we came to office,” he said in an interview on NBC. “And before we got our first major economic initiative passed, we lost another 3.5 million jobs. Since that point, it’s been steady growth. Not enough — there’s still a lot of people in trouble — but there’s no stagnation.”

Those comments were echoed by Mr. Axelrod, who also took at shot at Republicans who have complained about the White House “spiking the football” over the death of bin Laden.

“It’s part of his record. And it’s certainly a legitimate part of his record to talk about,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And it turned out successfully. If it hadn’t, you’d better believe the other side would be talking about it, and Mitt Romney would be the first one.”

Mr. Axelrod, the Obama campaign’s top strategist, also took issue with questions about an “enthusiasm gap” among Obama supporters when host Jake Tapper asked about the 4,000 empty seats at the president’s Saturday rally in the Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center arena.

“In Virginia, there was an overflow crowd,” Mr. Axelrod said. “But the fact is that 14,000 is 11,000 more than the largest crowd that Mitt Romney has ever drawn.”

Less-than-capacity crowd or not, the president delivered a fiery 35-minute speech designed to persuade voters that his policies have put the economy on a path to recovery, while he characterized Mr. Romney’s ideas as a return to the Republican agenda that he argues led to the global economic collapse four years ago.

Standing near a banner that says “Forward,” the campaign’s new slogan, Mr. Obama called the election “a make-or-break moment for the middle class.”

He gave Mr. Romney credit for being a “patriotic American who raised a wonderful family,” but said the former governor of Massachusetts and successful businessman has drawn the wrong lessons from his experiences.

The Romney campaign quickly fired back at Mr. Obama, arguing that he is offering the same hollow promises of change that got him elected four years ago while Americans continue to suffer in a bad economy.

“No matter how many lofty campaign speeches President Obama gives, the fact remains that American families are struggling on his watch to pay their bills, find a job and keep their homes,” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

At an event in Virginia Commonwealth University later that day, Mr. Obama delivered the same speech to a more supportive audience, which interrupted him several times with chants of “four more years.”

First lady Michelle Obama also spoke at both rallies, telling supporters: “This journey is going to be long and hard. But that’s how all change happens in this country.”

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