Obama turns new jobless rate into campaign theme


Using improving unemployment numbers as a springboard, President Obama in his weekly address reiterated what may be a new clutch argument on the trail: "We've come too far to turn back now."

"On Friday, we learned that the unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since I took office," the president said, repeating almost verbatim remarks he made across Virginia on Friday. "More Americans are entering the workforce. More Americans are getting jobs. But too many of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work or struggling to pay the bills - many of them since long before this crisis hit.

"We owe it to them to keep moving forward," he continued. "We've come too far to turn back now. And we've made too much progress to return to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place."

The Labor Department announced Friday employers added 114,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent. The new and improved jobless rate marks an end to Mitt Romney's four-year talking point on the issue, a setback for the GOP nominee, who was enjoying new-found momentum coming out of Wednesday's debate.

To illustrate his administration's measures against policies he believes ignited the chronic eight-percent-plus unemployment rate over the past four years, Mr. Obama touted his placement of "tougher, common-sense rules of the road for Wall Street" and "the strongest consumer protections in our history." He chided House Republicans for "waging an all-out battle to delay, defund and dismantle these commonsense new rules."

Recycling some lines from last month's weekly addresses, the president said that now is "no time for political games, even in a political season," and called on Congress to return to work to act on economic legislation, such as an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans making less than $250,000 a year. The House GOP, he said, is "holding tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans hostage until we pass tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Ask them how that helps the middle class."

But riding the Republicans' high this week - a Romney debate victory, so deemed by most pundits - Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus argued in the GOP's weekly response that four more years of an Obama administration would, borrowing terminology from Vice President Joe Biden, "bury the middle class even more."

"It was painfully clear during the debate that President Obama has no new ideas to fix the economy," Priebus said. "His only plan for a second term is a tax increase so large it would destroy over 700,000 jobs." Turning the table on Friday's jobs numbers, Priebus said the report, which posted fewer jobs created in September than in August, showed that "America still desperately needs jobs - yet the president's central and sole proposal would mean fewer jobs."

"Midway through the debate, I think the president realized that he's been president for the past four years, and it was his policies and his agenda that have failed to produce any of the results that he promised us as a candidate," the chairman continued. "President Obama simply hasn't shown the kind of leadership we need. We face crises today which requires a steady hand, and a leader focused on the job - but President Obama's focus has been on saving his own job."

As RNC chair, Priebus said, "I understand that the president must campaign. But he also has a job to do. While Barack Obama enjoys being president, he doesn't seem to enjoy the work required of being a great president."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.