Republicans back on familiar turf: Criticizing Obama on economy

Republican presidential candidates seized on Friday's employment report to revive criticism of President Obama and his economic policies.

After a week in which many Republicans praised the commando raid, ordered by Obama, that killed Osama bin Laden, the GOP field returned to familiar turf: voicing strident criticism of the administration on the economy.

"Today's disheartening unemployment increase is another reminder of the failure of President Obama's economic policies," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said in a statement. "We are in the third year of unemployment above 8 percent. This figure is not just a statistic — 20 million Americans are out of work, underemployed or have stopped looking for work."

Friday's jobs numbers offered a blessing and curse, politically, for both the president and his would-be Republican challengers. The economy added 244,000 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate ticked upward from 8.8 percent to 9 percent — a figure the Republicans will use as a cudgel against Democrats.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has not commented directly on the jobs report, but indicated that individual statistics would not affect his overall argument against Obama's handling of the economy.

"The economy, if it's improving at all, is only doing so very slowly and not by very big margins," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Pawlenty accused Obama of breaking a litany of campaign promises, such as fixing the federal budget deficit.

"He made all these promises and he broke most of them," he said.

Obama has spent the better part of this week riding high on the success of last weekend's raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan; a variety of public opinion polls since last Sunday's operation showed a bump in the president's approval rating, driven by increased support for his handling of the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror.

But those same polls suggested that many voters remain frustrated with the administration's economic stewardship.

Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed in a CNN/Opinion Research poll released Friday said unemployment is the top issue facing the country. Twenty-eight percent named the budget deficit as the top issue, and 21 percent said the rising price of gas is most important. All three are pocketbook issues, and Obama's reelection could ultimately hinge more on voters' satisfaction with the economy than this past weekend's military victory.