Democrats Try to Shape Race as Contrast Rather Than Referendum

Democrats gathering for their national convention framed this year’s election as two competing economic plans rather than a referendum on President Barack Obama.

With unemployment at 8.3 percent and job growth anemic, the Democrats said that Obama’s policies were helping the U.S. climb out of the recession he inherited and accused Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of seeking to return to the same policies that led to the economic meltdown.

“We’re going to explain to the American people and the middle class of this country, how we’re going to continue to recover, but do more than just recover from the recession, to build an economy from the middle out,” said David Plouffe, a White House senior adviser, on ABC’s “This Week” today. “What Mitt Romney is going to offer America is top-down, trickle-down fairy dust. It didn’t work then, it’s not going to work now.”

Obama, who Democrats will re-nominate in Charlotte, North Carolina, is seeking to shore up his support as voters are divided over his handling of the economy. A Washington Post/ABC News survey released Aug. 28 showed 44 percent trust Obama more on the economy, compared with 46 percent who trust Romney more. Among registered voters, the race was virtually deadlocked, with 47 percent favoring Romney and 46 percent backing the president.

Jobs Focus

Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the campaign’s main issue remained job creation.

“The president needs to explain why he didn’t do what he said he was going to do,” Fehrnstrom said. “The economy has not turned around. In fact, I think the biggest news next week will not be the three nights of the Democratic convention, but it will be on Friday when we hear again about the monthly jobs report for the month of August.”

Obama’s allies have touted 29 straight months of private- sector job growth, while saying it has taken longer to climb out of the economic downturn the president inherited from his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush. The Commerce Department last revised its estimate of second-quarter growth to 1.7 percent from 1.5 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index (SPX) has risen 65 percent since Obama took office in January, 2009.

“What you’re going to hear this week in Charlotte is a president who is going to present a clear agenda” for a second term “that talks about how we build a sound economy and lift the middle class in this country,” said Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, on “Fox News Sunday.”

‘Derivative’ Ideas

Republicans “simply don’t want to talk about their ideas, because their ideas are not ideas about the future,” Axelrod said. “They are derivative of what we did in the last decade that brought our economy to its knees.”

Still, Obama is presiding over a jobless rate above 8 percent for the longest stretch since World War II. And working- class individuals -- those nonprofessional occupations lacking college degrees -- saw their median earnings fall 4.6 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to a study of U.S. Census data prepared for Bloomberg News by Sentier Research of Annapolis, Maryland.

“We all have responsibility for the way things are,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said on CNN’s “State of the Union. “But the question is do we want the go back to the failed policies that led to the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, or do we want to dig deep as our parents and grandparents did, invest in education, innovation and also rebuilding America so that we can create a stronger and growing middle class.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Charlotte, North Carolina, at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.

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