Sunday 22 October 2017

Obama gets much-needed boost with new jobs figures

Rupert Cornwell Fishersville, Virginia

Desperate to recover from his limp debate performance, US President Barack Obama has received a major boost with a decline in the US unemployment rate to below 8pc.

The actual number of new jobs created in September was an uninspiring 114,000, roughly in line with expectations.

But with the campaign entering its final month and the economy the central issue, Mr Obama will be able to point to the drop in the rate to 7.8pc -- the lowest since early 2009 -- as proof that things are slowly but surely improving.

The president needs all the help he can get as a re-energised Mitt Romney yesterday stepped up his efforts to recapture the vital swing state of Virginia.

Although Mr Obama still holds a slight lead in the national polls, and in most battleground states including Virginia, Mr Romney's strong debate showing has lifted Republican spirits.

"I was surprised," said 55-year-old Doug Stader, among the 10,000-plus who attended a packed and boisterous Romney rally in central Virginia. "He kind of blew Obama away."

Typical too was the comment of another attendee who failed even to make it inside an event that backed up traffic on nearby interstate highways for miles. "I was really pleased," she said, "I knew he could do it, but it was about time."

In his speech, the Republican candidate hammered away at the economy, accusing Mr Obama of practising "trickle-down government," with more public spending and higher taxes.

Despairing

"He talks about stimulus and more government workers," Mr Romney declared, "but that will kill jobs." The only reason the unemployment rate was falling, he argued, was because people despairing of ever finding a job had stopped looking for one.

Time and again he referred to Wednesday's debate in Denver, Colorado, one widely judged as the best moment of his campaign, although its impact on the polls is yet to be seen.

He had peppered the president, he said, with questions "about the 23 million unemployed and the problems of the middle class. I asked him those questions and you heard his answers."

Virginia is a key piece in the electoral jigsaw Mr Romney must assemble if he is to win the White House on November 6. The state went Democrat in 2008 for the first time since voting for Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide.

Meanwhile, Mr Romney is trying to correct past gaffes, apologising for his remark, secretly taped at a closed Florida fundraiser in the spring, that 47pc of Americans considered themselves "victims" and would never vote for him.

"I said something that's just completely wrong," he told Fox News. "I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about the 100pc. When I become president, it will be about helping the 100pc."

Astonishingly, Mr Obama never mentioned the gaffe, perhaps the most damaging of the many committed by the Republican candidate, during Wednesday's debate.

After Mr Romney's comprehensive retraction, the president may find it harder to do so in future. (© Independent News Services)

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