President Barack Obama told campaign donors in Chicago and Minnesota that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis is largely to blame for the slowest month of U.S. employment growth in a year, seeking to counter an issue weighing on his re-election bid.
“We’re not where we need to be; we’re not there yet; you saw that in today’s jobs report,” the president said at a Chicago fundraiser, the fourth of six yesterday in the Midwest. “A lot of that’s attributable to Europe and the cloud that’s coming over from the Atlantic. The whole world economy has been weakened by it, and it’s having an impact on us.”
Obama’s prospects for a second term suffered a blow yesterday with a U.S. Labor Department report showing payrolls expanded by 69,000 last month, less than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of private economists, while the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent.
Both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have sought to make the economy the focus of the election. The president says the former Massachusetts governor backs policies that brought the U.S. into a crippling downturn, while Romney, a co-founder of the Bain Capital LLC private-equity firm, asserts Obama lacks the business acumen needed to lead an economic turnaround.
Romney, who clinched the Republican nomination on May 29 by winning the Texas primary, said yesterday on CNBC that the jobs numbers were “very bad news for middle-class families in America” and a “harsh indictment” of Obama’s policies.
During a fundraiser last night at the Chicago Cultural Center, the president said that, while Romney seems to “have a very wonderful family” and loves the U.S., his vision is the same one that “got us into this mess in the first place.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, introduced Obama to about 350 people at the event, with tickets costing at least $2,500 per person. Emanuel said that, through “sheer force of will,” Obama has helped create jobs, including by leading a rescue of the U.S. auto industry.
General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC yesterday reported sales gains for May that trailed analysts’ estimates. GM deliveries last month rose 11 percent, while Chrysler’s climbed 30 percent. Analysts had estimated gains of 15 percent by GM and 40 percent by Chrysler.
In public remarks at the Chicago Cultural Center, Obama listed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” -- the ban on gay men and women serving openly in the military -- and ending the war in Iraq among his biggest accomplishments in his first term.
At the same time, the president acknowledged the deep frustration among the jobless and people whose homes are underwater. “If you don’t have a job, you don’t care that there have been four million jobs created,” he said.
The president later attended a fundraising dinner at the Chicago home of Chaka and Tracey Patterson followed by another one at the home of Paula and James Crown. Tickets for each event were $35,800 per person.
Chaka Patterson is a lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and was a vice president at Exelon Corp. Tracey Patterson is with Accenture Plc. James Crown is president of investment firm Henry Crown & Co. All four of the hosts are members of Obama’s national finance committee.
Speaking about the disappointing jobs numbers, Obama told attendees at the second Chicago event that the interconnected global economy means, “When something happens across the Atlantic or across the Pacific, it gives us a shock.”
“Despite all that, though, we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “But we’re not moving as fast as we could be.”
The president stayed overnight at the Georgian-style three-story red brick Chicago house that he and first lady Michelle Obama bought in 2005. Last night marked only the 11th time he has spent the night at his home since taking office and his first since April 14, 2011.
“I am sleeping in my bed tonight. I’m going to go into my kitchen. I might cook something for myself,” he told the crowd at the Chicago Cultural Center yesterday.
Today, he strolled about three blocks from his home, with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser and Chicago native, to his friend Marty Nesbitt’s house. Nesbitt is chief executive officer of the Parking Spot, an airport parking service, and was Obama’s campaign treasurer in 2008. Obama is the godfather to Nesbitt’s youngest son.
A half-dozen Secret Service agents, dressed in black suits and wearing sunglasses, surveyed the leafy Hyde Park neighborhood where Obama and Nesbitt live. Agents flanked Obama on the walk in the sunny weather.
When asked by a reporter whether he cooked breakfast this morning, Obama said, “I woke up too late.” When another reporter asked how his first night at home in more than a year was he replied: “Still works.”
The fundraisers in Minnesota and Chicago yesterday took in at least $5 million. At one of three events in Minnesota earlier in the day, Obama said the November election will be “close,” not because the other side has great ideas, but because “the economy is still fragile.”
At each of the four fundraisers that were open to the media, Obama said that the U.S.’s economic woes are due in part to the continuing debt crisis in the euro zone.
“Europe is having a significant crisis in part because they haven’t taken as many of the decisive steps as were needed to deal with the challenge, and that’s weakening Asia and that means it’s harder for our exports,” he told supporters at the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant in Minneapolis.
During that event, the president blamed Republicans in Congress for legislative gridlock on issues from funding highway construction to taxes, saying they have been exclusively focusing on the goal of defeating him in November. He urged supporters to work for his re-election so that the partisan “fever” gripping Washington can be broken.
“I believe that, if we’re successful in this election, when we’re successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that,” Obama told approximately 100 people who paid $5,000 each to attend the event, the first of three in Minnesota.