With 60 days to go before Election Day, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, returned Friday to the campaign trail and launched a television offensive in key battleground states that aimed to chopped away at President Obama’s argument for a second term.
Looking to build off the momentum that he carried out of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., Mr. Obama, meanwhile, stumped alongside vice president Joe Biden, and their wives, in New Hampshire, telling voters that Mr. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan are selling warmed-over GOP plans from the past — “another round of tax breaks for millionaires” and the “rolling back regulations” on Wall Street — that will not put people back to work or reduce the national deficit.
“We’ve tried what they’re selling. It didn’t work then. It’s not going to work now. We’re not going back. We are moving forward,” he said.
Whatever bounce Mr. Obama might have received from the convention was hampered by an eight-state television advertising blitz from the Romney camp and the tepid August jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed the nation’s unemployment rate dipped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent — thanks to a combination of 96,000 new jobs and 386,000 dropping out of the workforce.
“If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover,” Mr. Romney, a teetotaler, said in a statement. “For every net new job created, nearly four Americans gave up looking for work entirely. This is more of the same for middle class families who are suffering through the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.”
Mr. Romney took the message with him to a campaign stop in western Iowa, holding up the August jobs report and recent announcement from the Treasury Department that the national debt has climbed past $16 trillion as proof that Mr. Obama has failed to deliver on the “lofty” promises he outlined for years ago.
“There are today 23 million Americans that are out of work, or stopped looking for work or underemployed. It is a national tragedy, ” Mr. Romney told the few thousand people that crammed into a school gymnasium to see him. “He also said he’d cut the deficit in half. He doubled it.”
“This is the time for a new president with a new vision for America,” he said.
Mr. Obama, though, continued to make the case at a museum in New Hampshire that he inherited a financial mess from George W. Bush when he entered office on Jan. 20, 2009 — taking over in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression and after the nation shed more than 4.4 million jobs during the final year of the Bush presidency.
“After losing around 800,000 jobs a month when I took office, business once again added jobs for the 30th month in a row — a total of more than 4.6 million jobs, but that’s not good enough,” Mr. Obama said, before calling once again on Congress to extend the Bush-era income tax cuts for people making less than $250,000 that are set to expire at the end of the year.
“Everybody agrees we shouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class. Let’s go ahead and get that done. Let’s get it done now,” he said.
In Iowa, Mr. Romney, who wants to extend all the Bush-era tax cut and warns the president’s plan would raise taxes on small business, said now is not the time to put a bigger tax burden on small businesses.
“If you raise taxes on small business, a lot of them won’t even start and those that do won’t be able to grow,” he said Friday. “So for me, holding down taxes on small business is essential.”
And he appealed directly to young voters, telling them that Mr. Obama is saddling them with more and more debt.
“You guys will be paying for that,” Mr. Romney said. “You’re going to pay the interest on it. You’re going to pay the interest, and it’s going to get larger and larger till that interest swamps even more than our total defense budget. That’s what’s going to happen unless we get serious about reining in the excesses of government.”