- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DELAWARE, Ohio — Last week’s improved unemployment rate has stripped one of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s go-to lines from his stump speech, forcing him to revamp his message on jobs and the economy.

Gone is Mr. Romney’s claim that President Obama has presided over 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent after last week’s report showed the rate had dropped 0.3 percent, to 7.8 percent, which is the rate it was when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009.

Immediately after the report, Mr. Romney said the number was still too high and didn’t constitute a successful economic recovery. But on the campaign trail since, he has tamped down on his criticism of Mr. Obama’s jobs record, and instead focuses on his own claim of being able to create 12 million jobs in an Romney administration.

Still, his jobs argument is becoming even harder to make in some of the swing states, where the jobs picture is rosier than the national 7.8 percent unemployment rate.

When last week’s unemployment report was released, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, proudly touted that the Tampa Bay and Miami areas experienced some of the largest unemployment drops in the country.

In Ohio on Wednesday, Mr. Romney tried out his retooled jobs message, warning that another term for Mr. Obama would yield more spending and more trillion-dollar deficits, which he said would cost jobs.

“This is not just bad for the economy. It’s bad for jobs, because as debt gets larger and larger, the economy slows down. We don’t put as many people to work,” he said.

But moments later, he criticized Mr. Obama for not spending more on defense. Mr. Romney said the looming defense-spending “sequesters” due to take effect Jan. 2 would be bad for the jobs picture.

“Jobs would be lost here in Ohio. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost here in Ohio,” the Republican nominee said. “Across the country, the job loss would be extraordinary. And of course, our military would be devastated, in the words of the secretary of defense. We can’t afford that additional cost of Barack Obama.”

Mr. Obama has called for Congress to cancel the defense-spending cuts and replace them in part with tax increases, while congressional Republicans have balked, saying the defense cuts should be replaced with deeper cuts to domestic programs.

Mr. Romney barnstormed across Ohio with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at his side, testing out his new message, which includes more time focused on sharing stories about the interactions he has had with people over the course of his life who have shown courage in the face of adversity.

In Ohio, he also had to clarify his stance on abortion in the wake of an interview with the Des Moines Register newspaper in Iowa on Tuesday, in which he said there was no abortion legislation pending that would be part of his agenda.

Pressed to explain what he meant, Mr. Romney reaffirmed his pro-life stance Wednesday and said there are some pro-life policies he would enact, such as canceling funding for international family-planning groups that also fund abortions.

The focus of the race now turns to the much-anticipated debate between Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — two men that have spent a good chunk of their lives inside the Washington Beltway, but who come from different generations and ideologically represent different ends of the political spectrum.