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In US economy, Romney finds plenty to bash Obama

03 june 2012, 11:14
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. ©AFP
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. ©AFP
Forget abortion and same-sex marriage: Republican Mitt Romney has made a crisp pivot toward the economy, and Friday's dismal jobs numbers are providing the latest anti-Obama fodder to boost his White House bid, AFP reports.

During the bruising primary race, Romney often found himself in open conflict with rivals Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who pressed the frontrunner on contentious social issues in an effort to make him appear out of step with core conservative voters.

But ever since he outlasted all Republican contenders to become the presumptive nominee, Romney and his surrogates have zeroed in on what resonates with a broader swathe of Americans: their pocketbooks.

The shift has been dramatic, particularly in the past week, with Team Romney issuing a barrage of Web videos and ads criticizing President Barack Obama's attacks on his rival's record as head of private equity firm Bain Capital.

Republicans have repeatedly stressed that "Obamanomics" have left corporate America skittish and crying out for policies that would remove the uncertainty over tax rates and regulations that weigh down on innovation, investment and ultimately job creation.

Harsh critiques swelled to a crescendo Friday, after the Labor Department announced the US economy added just 69,000 jobs in May, far fewer than expected, and bumping the unemployment rate up to 8.2 percent.

Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman and investor, called the figures "devastating," part of a "cascade" of economic woes.

"Slowing GDP growth, plunging consumer confidence, an increase in unemployment claims, and now another dismal jobs report all stand as a harsh indictment of the president's handling of the economy," he said.

"It is now clear to everyone that President Obama's policies have failed to achieve their goals and that the Obama economy is crushing America's middle class."

Obama hit back, insisting financial troubles across the Atlantic were partly to blame.

"We've had a crisis in Europe's economy that is having an impact worldwide and it's starting to cast a shadow on our own as well," he told supporters in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

Romney, locked in an increasingly tight race with the president, was having none of it.

"This has been going on for a lot longer than just the crisis of the euro," he told CNBC television.

"This (US) crisis has been going on for 40 months. And unfortunately, you've had a president that's been more focused on his perspective of his historical legislative achievements than on getting people back to work," he said, referring to Obama ramming his signature health care reform through Congress.

Top Republicans eagerly piled on, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called the jobs figures "pathetic."

"It really cries out for us to actually try something new now," he told reporters.

Cantor and others did what Romney surrogates have done for weeks now: remind voters of Obama's 2009 assessment that if he didn't turn the economy around within his first term, he shouldn't deserve a second.

"Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, are looking for work, and it's time for us to change course and to have real policies that will put Americans back to work," said House Speaker John Boehner as he laid blame for the wobbly recovery squarely on the president.

Boehner also blasted Obama for again hitting the campaign trail rather than buckling down on issues at hand.

"Instead of another campaign speech, the president might want to engage with Democrats and Republicans here on Capitol Hill to handle the big policies that are affecting our economy," a frustrated Boehner said, citing looming tax battles, budget cuts and a $16 trillion national debt.

"Maybe the president ought to get out of the badminton game and get into the rugby game that's right in front of him."

Romney was just as blunt in an interview with CBS News.

Asked what grade he would give Obama, Romney pounced: "Oh, an F, no question."

On the campaign trail, Romney stressed that his business experience would be a game changer enabling him to steady the economic ship more quickly and convincingly than Obama has.

"That kind of fundamental understanding, I think the president is lacking," Romney said.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus weighed in on the "extremely troubling" jobs data, saying it proves that Obama's policies aren't working.

"Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney actually has the experience and the know-how to get our country moving, finally, in the right direction," Priebus said.

By Michael Mathes

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