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Obama aide: election not about jobs statistics

White House senior adviser David Plouffe said this week that people don't vote based on the unemployment rate. Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images

Republicans are hammering the Obama campaign today after one of President Obama's top advisers suggested this week that the unemployment rate and other economic statistics won't be a driving factor in the 2012 elections.

"The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates, or even monthly jobs numbers," White House senior adviser David Plouffe said at a Washington event on Wednesday. "People won't vote based on the unemployment rate, they're going to vote based on: 'How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?'"

Today's Labor Department report shows that many people are still struggling in the current economy: the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent in June, and the economy generated just 18,000 net new jobs last month -- making it the slowest month for job creation in nine months.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney released a statement in response to the jobs report and Plouffe's remarks. He said the White House has "turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference."

"If David Plouffe were working for me, I would fire him and then he could experience firsthand the pain of unemployment," Romney said. "His comments are an insult to the more than 20 million people who are out of work, underemployed or who have simply stopped looking for jobs."

In response to today's jobs report, President Obama said that, in spite of the recent focus on the debt limit and deficit reduction, "what matters most to Americans and what matters most to me as president in the wake of the worst downturn in our lifetimes is getting our economy on a sounder footing."

He added, "The American people need us to could everything we can to help strengthen this economy and make sure that we are producing more jobs."

Still, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today defended Plouffe's remarks to reporters, commenting that most people do not sit around their kitchen table and analyze the GDP.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted a message to Carney today warning that Plouffe's comments will backfire: "@PressSec, let me be clear, voters will hear Plouffe's out-of-touch jobs comment every day until Election Day," he wrote.

Since World War II, the only president to win re-election when the unemployment rate was over 7.2 percent was Ronald Reagan, and the rate was falling when Reagan won a second term in 1984.

While the economy will certainly be at the forefront of political debate in the next election, Plouffe said Wednesday that the presidential election will be more forward-looking.

"Their decision next year will be based upon two things," he said. "How do I feel about things right now and then, ultimately, campaigns are always much more about the future and who do I think has got the best idea, the best vision for where to take the country?"

Republican candidates, he said, are advocating the kind of ideas that led to the recession in the first place. "Let Wall Street kind of run amok, cut taxes for the wealthy, starve investment in things like education, research and development," he elaborated.