President Barack Obama’s campaign and Republican Mitt Romney traded attacks yesterday over what the two White House candidates didn’t say at their respective conventions.
As the Obama campaign reiterated its attack on Romney’s decision not to include anything about the war in Afghanistan in his Aug. 30 address at his party’s nomination, Romney struck back during an appearance in Ohio, saying Obama omitted direct mention of lingering high unemployment in his Sept. 6 nomination acceptance speech in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“You know, I was surprised at the president’s speech at the Democratic convention. He didn’t mention unemployment,” Romney said from the center of the manufacturing floor at PR Machine Works Inc. in Mansfield, Ohio.
As Romney and Obama reach the final stage of the 2012 campaign, both campaigns are searching for ways to differentiate themselves, especially as they visit swing states such as Ohio.
While Obama didn’t specifically refer in his convention remarks to an unemployment rate that has been above 8 percent for 43 consecutive months -- since February 2009 -- he did say he has “shared the pain of the families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs.”
U.S. Labor Department figures released the day after his speech showed an August unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, driven down from 8.3 percent by Americans leaving the labor force.
Romney’s stop in Mansfield came a little more than a month after President Barack Obama came through the same town, located about 70 miles north of the state capital of Columbus. Romney’s visit underscored what will be a concerted push by his campaign and the Republican National Committee to carry Ohio, said Kevin Madden, a Romney adviser.
“We’ll have travel here; we’ve got Romney for president and RNC resources and infrastructure in this state, and that will continue all the way through to the election,” Madden told reporters after the event.
Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, has sided with the victor in 12 consecutive presidential elections, starting in 1964.
After national polls showed Romney getting little bounce in support after the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, the surveys have shown Obama benefitting from his party’s gathering.
A poll of likely voters released yesterday by CNN showed Obama leading Romney 52 percent to 46 percent. The poll, conducted from Sept. 7 through Sept. 9, has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The Gallup tracking poll -- which had shown a virtual tie in recent weeks -- shows Obama leading 49 percent to 44 percent in a rolling seven-day average through Sept. 9.
Romney pollster Neil Newhouse countered that the polls reflected a fleeting surge in Obama’s support that doesn’t indicate any fundamental change in the race, which will be decided by the economy. That will be Obama’s “ultimate downfall,” according to a memo circulated by the campaign.
“While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly,” Newhouse wrote in the memo.
As Romney pushed Obama on unemployment at his Ohio event yesterday, the president’s campaign continued to hammer at the former Massachusetts governor on the Afghanistan issue and argued he is unfit to serve as commander in chief.
In a conference call with reporters, Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander and an unsuccessful candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, said that, in failing to mention Afghanistan in his convention speech, Romney had ignored U.S. troops and veterans and failed to lay out a plan for extricating American forces from that country.
“It reveals a severe lack of understanding about the job as president, doesn’t reflect well on what kind of leadership he would bring, and, frankly, it’s just unbecoming of someone who wants to become commander in chief,” Clark said.
Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Obama’s campaign, called Romney’s oversight “deliberate.”
Asked why he didn’t address Afghanistan in his convention remarks, Romney told reporters last week that he talked about it the day before during in a speech in Indianapolis, Indiana, to the American Legion. In that speech, in front of a much smaller audience than the 30 million who watched him at his party’s convention, Romney mentioned Afghanistan once without outlining his plan for handling the conflict there.
No ‘Laundry List’
Romney brushed off the criticism on the issue during a Sept. 7 Fox News Channel interview. “When you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important, and I described in my speech my commitment to a strong military, unlike the president’s decision to cut our military,” he said.
Romney, who is scheduled to address the National Guard Association today in Reno, Nevada, in his Mansfield appearance also attacked Obama on defense cuts set to take effect starting in January 2013. The cuts are part of $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board reductions approved for the next decade after talks failed last year on a bipartisan plan to curb the nation’s debt. The defense portion of the cuts amounts to $500 billion.
Romney pledged to stop the cuts if he wins in November, saying they would weaken U.S. defense capabilities and the economy.
“I will not cut our military budget; I will preserve it,” Romney said.
Each campaign announced yesterday pulling in more than $100 million in donations in August, with Obama narrowly besting Romney $114 million to $111.6 million.
The totals include money raised by their campaigns as well as by joint fundraising efforts with their respective national political parties. It was the first time in four months that Obama’s fundraising efforts had surpassed Romney’s.