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U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement from the White House Briefing Room after a congressional "super committee" on Monday failed to reach a deal on reducing federal government deficit in Washington November 21, 2011. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement from the White House Briefing Room after a congressional "super committee" on Monday failed to reach a deal on reducing federal government deficit in Washington November 21, 2011. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Disappointing U.S. job numbers cloud Obama's excellent week Add to ...

Slow job creation is not the narrative the Barack Obama re-election campaign wants American voters to wake up to. But that is exactly what Friday’s numbers show: employers hiring 115,000 workers in April, a figure well below expectations.

The unemployment rate may have dropped a notch to 8.1 per cent from 8.2 per cent, but that is largely due to people giving up on the job market altogether.

With six months until election day, the U.S. economy continues to send mixed messages, which only meddles with the Obama campaign’s own message of an economy on the mend.

For the Mitt Romney campaign, an opportunity to make its own case: Mr. Obama is presiding over the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression and that the country needs an able economic steward with a proven private sector track record.

Yet, in spite of the disappointing job creation numbers, the Obama campaign can still count its wins this week.

Changing the channel

Nothing works better during a re-election campaign than changing the subject whenever your opponents want voters to focus on your economic record.

But that is exactly what Mr. Obama achieved this week by flying secretly to Afghanistan and addressing war-weary Americans in a televised address while Mr. Romney delivered pizzas to firefighters in Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has risen to a current 48 per cent from 41 per cent in the summer, the highest it has been since the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a year ago.

His opponents have accused him of ‘spiking the football’ and seeking political gain around the bin Laden death anniversary, which included an NBC News interview from the situation room where he and other key national security officials watched the night-time Navy SEAL mission in to Pakistan. Mr. Obama described the day of the killing as the most important in his presidency.

Every day Mr. Obama’s handling of the U.S. economy is out of the news – and replaced by his commander-in-chief achievements – is a win-win for the campaign.

The narrow path to the White House

Voter surveys this week show the race tightening in the key battleground states of Florida and Ohio with Mr. Romney erasing single-digit leads and pulling in to a virtual dead heat with Mr. Obama. The same Quinnipiac Poll shows the President with an eight-point lead in Pennsylvania, which is another key state.

Overall, the poll concludes, Mr. Obama is doing better in these three key states, but that Mr. Romney’s gains reflect, in part, “voter optimism about the economy has levelled off.”

Polls will no doubt fluctuate. But there are hopeful signs for the Obama campaign.

A Washington Post poll shows Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by 51 per cent to 44 per cent among registered voters in Virginia – a key state where both campaigns have been courting voters all week.

The Obama campaign kicks-off its official campaign in Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday with the good news that its 2008 coalition of suburban voters, African-Americans, women and young voters is still in tact.

Mitt Romney’s narrow path to the White House, as the Washington Post reports, involves winning Florida and Ohio and winning back three traditionally Republican states that swung to the Democrats in 2008: Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. Right now, Virginia is looking challenging.

The rapid response campaign

Mitt Romney probably had the best line of the week with his joke about the Obama campaign’s new Forward slogan: “Forward, what, over the cliff?” he told an audience at a Virginia fundraising event this week.

But upending your opponent’s message in a daily rapid response environment is no easy task.

When the Obama campaign unveiled its online interactive The Life of Julia – which follows a little girl from the age of three until her retirement, contrasting how she would fare under an Obama administration versus a Romney administration – Republicans were quick to mock.

“#Julia is bummed. Her share of the national debt went up $16,345 under Obama,” tweeted Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Others on Twitter were harsher.

However, the Obama campaign is no tortoise. Remember the Swiss bank account attack by Newt Gingrich against Mr. Romney? The Obama campaign definitely went there in a web video this week, depicting Mr. Romney as a corporate raider who outsourced jobs. “It’s just what you expect from a guy who had a Swiss bank account,” the ad concludes.

The best of Newt Gingrich’s attacks on the ‘Massachusetts moderate’ are distilled in a separate web video released this week on the day that the former Speaker of the House of Representatives dropped out of the race. In a series of clips, Mr. Gingrich accuses Mr. Romney of looting companies and being a “liar.”

Meanwhile, on the day that Rick Santorum was to meet Mr. Romney about a possible endorsement, this highlight reel from the Democratic National Committee of the former Pennsylvania senator’s attacks against his one-time rival. Mr. Romney’s job creation record, according to Mr. Santorum, was “third from the worst.”

“He was 47 out of 50. You hear him talk about – ‘oh I created jobs in the private sector,’ but he didn’t do anything in Massachusetts.” Together, these videos are meant to undermine the narrative that Mr. Romney can turn the U.S. economy around at a time when the Obama administration’s own record continues to disappoint many Americans.

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