Republican leaders rallied behind presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney as President Barack Obama officially began his re-election bid in the swing states of Ohio and Virginia.
Newt Gingrich and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who both dropped out of this year’s Republican primary contest, said Romney, 65, would prove better at creating jobs and reducing the country’s debt than Democrat Obama. Each had criticized Romney during the primary campaign for failing to be sufficiently conservative.
“Compared to Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is a solid conservative,” Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve endorsed him.”
The onetime Republican candidates spoke a day after Obama officially started his campaign by giving back-to-back speeches emphasizing populist themes and signs of economic progress since he was elected in 2008. The economy will be the dominant issue in the November election and Obama is seeking to make the case that, while the recovery has been uneven, his presidency has helped pull the U.S. out of a recession and reduced the unemployment rate.
“There have been disappointments, but we didn’t quit,” Obama, 50, said. “Together, we are fighting our way back.”
Obama said Romney would be a “rubber stamp” for congressional Republicans who want to cut education funding, pare Medicare and rewind economic and regulatory policies to those in place before the recession.
Romney and the Republicans “think the same bad ideas will lead to a different result,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Richmond May 5. “I’m here to say that we were there, we remember, and we are not going back. We are moving this country forward.”
American employers in April added the fewest number of jobs in six months and wages stagnated, adding to concern that the nearly three-year-old economic expansion is cooling. The 115,000 increase in payrolls was less than forecast, Labor Department figures showed last week in Washington.
Both campaigns are preparing for a close election, with the most recent Gallup daily tracking poll, completed May 4, showing the race essentially tied. Obama received support from 46 percent of those polled and Romney got 45 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The economy will be a “net plus” for the president once voters consider Romney’s platform on taxes and regulation, Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.
Romney “wants to give further tax breaks to the wealthiest among us,” Schumer said. “He wants to further deregulate many industries. That’s what got us into this trouble to begin with.”
Obama described Romney as a patriotic American who has been a successful businessman and the governor of Massachusetts.
“But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences,” Obama said May 5. “He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money the rest of us will automatically prosper as well.”
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential Republican vice presidential pick, called the latest jobs report “abysmal” and said Obama was trying to blame Republicans for the country’s current economic condition because his own polices have failed.
“Things keep getting worse under his watch,” Rubio said yesterday on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “He doesn’t want to run on that record.”
Obama “asked us to hire him four years ago on the promise that he knew how to fix this economy,” Rubio said. “That’s the standard we should judge him by. The standard he set.”
He said Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the administration’s “bad policies with regards to the economy.”
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Vice President Joe Biden defended the administration’s economic record, saying the slowing of job growth in April doesn’t indicate the economy is stagnating.
“There’s still a lot of people in trouble,” Biden said. “But there’s no stagnation.”
The administration’s economic policies have created a “steady path” for recovery that would be quicker had Republicans not blocked some stimulus proposals, Biden said.
Support for Obama may decline in the swing state of Virginia, which the president won in 2008 with the help of turnout among African-Americans and college students, Tom Davis, a former Republican Representative from the state, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. The president also may not do as well the northern part of the state, where the voters who supported him in 2008 are among the wealthiest in the country, Davis said.
“When you start putting a bull’s-eye on people making over $100,000, $250,000 a year, that’s where they live and I think it’s going to be some problems for the president moving down the line,” Davis said, referring to the Obama administration’s backing for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.