Campaign surrogates Ayotte, O’Malley spar on job numbers, presidential debate

Surrogates for President Obama and Mitt Romney vied for the upper hand Sunday on the new jobless rate and what last week's debate means for the presidential race.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) appeared on Fox News Sunday after the government's latest unemployment numbers and Wednesday's first presidential debate shook up the race for the White House.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the jobless rate has failed from 8.1 to 7.8 percent — good news for Obama after his perceived lackluster debate performance against Romney the day before.

The unemployment rate is "lower now than it was in the last full month" of President George W. Bush's presidency, O'Malley said on Fox. "Home foreclosures are at their lowest point in five years. We are making progress."  
 
But Ayotte responded with a point Romney and his campaign have embraced since Friday — that without discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force, "the unemployment rate would really be 11 percent."

"I don't think there is really any cause to celebrate here," Ayotte said. "The politics that this president put into place actually made [the economy] worse."

Obama is almost sure to cite the new jobless rate when he faces Romney again on Oct. 16. 

That townhall-style debate, O'Malley said, will provide the president with an opportunity to regain his footing.

"We have three more debates coming up," O'Malley said, noting that one event will pit Vice President Biden against Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

"We have a few more rounds to go in this fight," O'Malley said.

But Ayotte argued that the damage against Obama is done.

Thursday's debate "was a reset of this campaign," she said. "It was a chance to debunk the myths created by the Obama campaign. We saw the Mitt Romney I know … a proven, effective leader."