Romney Blames Obama for Weak Jobs Report

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By Tom Cohen, CNN

(CNN) — President Barack Obama faced a weak jobs report Friday as he wrapped up a two-day bus tour to critical states in the November election, while Republicans pounced on the news to declare the president’s policies have failed.

Stock prices dropped sharply at the opening bell on the report that the economy created 80,000 new jobs in June, well below the number needed to bring down the 8.2% unemployment rate.

Certain GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney called the jobs figures a “kick in the gut for middle-class families,” blaming Obama’s policies for continued high unemployment and saying it was “time for Americans to choose whether they want more of the same.”

“His policies have not worked,” Romney said at a brief news conference in New Hampshire, where he is vacationing with his family.

Referring to more than three years of unemployment higher than 8%, Romney said “the evidence is in, again and again and again” and added that the continuing high unemployment rate “pretty much defines lack of success.”

Other Republican leaders echoed Romney’s remarks, with House Speaker John Boehner taking a jab at Obama’s comment last month that when compared to public sector job creation, the private sector was “doing fine.”

“Today’s report shows the private sector clearly isn’t ‘doing fine’ and that President Obama’s policies have failed,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ statement said, “The Obama economy is defined by chronically high unemployment.”

Aides to Obama said he would discuss the jobs report in remarks Friday at a school in Poland, Ohio, his final stop in the battleground state before his bus tour concludes in western Pennsylvania with events later in the day.

On Thursday, Obama told supporters at an Ohio campaign event that Republicans will blame him for all the nation’s troubles in an effort to scare them.

“That’s their plan for winning an election, but it’s not a plan for creating jobs,” Obama said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, accused congressional Republicans of obstructing economic progress by focusing on partisan politics, such as a planned House vote next week to repeal the health care reform law in what would be a purely symbolic gesture.

“It’s time for Republicans to abandon their agenda of obstruction and delay, and work with Democrats to create jobs and strengthen the middle class,” said a statement by Pelosi, D-California.

After Obama returns to Washington on Friday afternoon, he will sign a giant transportation bill that includes funding for road and bridge construction and repairs — a component of Obama’s jobs plan that Congress passed last week as part of a package that included holding down interest rates on federal student loans.

Both components were top priorities for Obama and passed after lengthy negotiations in Congress that were delayed by partisan posturing.

All polling so far shows a tight race between Obama and Romney, and that voters consider the economy the top issue.

Obama contends the deep recession he inherited continues to show growth, while Romney argues the president’s policies deter job creation.

In his remarks Friday, Romney specified what he called excessive corporate taxes and regulatory burdens as the main culprits.

“The president’s policies have not got America working again,” Romney said. “The president’s s going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it.”

At the heart of the issue are the differing philosophies of the two parties, with Obama and Democrats advocating a combination of strategic spending, increased revenue and entitlement reforms to reduce budget deficits and the national debt while Romney and Republicans focus on shrinking government.

The issue of health care reform has emerged as a major point of contention, especially after last week’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the signature legislation of Obama’s presidency so far.

The Romney campaign has been dogged by conflicting stances on the issue, which is a vulnerability for the former Massachusetts governor who implemented a similar plan in the state but now calls for repeal of the federal law known as Obamacare.

GOP leaders emphasized that the high court ruling that the law’s most controversial section — the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance — amounted to a kind of tax as evidence that Obama deceived the nation in 2009 by denying it was a tax increase.

However, a top Romney adviser — seeking to protect the candidate from Democratic charges that he implemented a similar tax increase in Massachusetts — insisted that the individual mandate was not a tax but a penalty, as argued by Obama.

Romney then had to declare publicly that the Supreme Court ruling means the mandate is a tax but added more confusion by making clear he disagreed with the high court decision.

Obama kept up the pressure on Romney on the issue, assailing him in an interview airing Friday for reversing his position on the penalty provision.

A short portion of the interview was distributed by Obama’s campaign early Friday. The remainder of the interview with WLWT-TV in Cincinnati was not immediately available.

Romney “was one of the biggest promoters of the individual mandate,” Obama said in the interview. “In Massachusetts, his whole idea was that we shouldn’t have people who can afford to get health insurance to not buy it and then force you or me, or John Q. Public to have to pay for him when he gets sick.”

Now, Obama said, Romney’s reversal from “penalty” to “tax” raises the question of “are you doing that because of politics?”

“Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for, for six years simply because you’re getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh or some critics in Washington?” Obama said.

Romney’s campaign responded that Obama “told the American people that Obamacare was not a new tax, then sent his lawyers to convince the Supreme Court that it was a new tax, and now is insisting — again — that it is not a tax.”

“Americans deserve straight answers from their president,” a campaign statement said.

Obama’s solicitor general argued before the Supreme Court in March that the individual mandate could be viewed as constitutional under Congress’ taxation power. Donald Verrilli said the fee would be collected by the Internal Revenue Service on April 15, the day Americans pay their federal income taxes.

Asked by Associate Justice Samuel Alito “can the mandate be viewed as a tax?” Verrilli responded, “I think it could.”

CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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