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Obama gives himself an ‘incomplete’

President Obama gives himself an "incomplete" when asked to grade his first-term performance on the economy.

"I would say incomplete," Obama told Colorado's KKTV-11, in an interview aired Monday evening. "But what I would say is the steps that we have taken in saving the auto industry, in making sure that college is more affordable and investing in clean energy and science and technology and research, those are all the things that we are going to need to grow over the long term."

Obama’s remarks come as Republicans are pressing the question of whether voters are better off now than they were four years ago. 

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Obama’s top surrogates yesterday argued forcefully that the country was better than when Obama took office and said economic troubles left by former President George W. Bush would take longer to address. 

Republicans, however, point to the unemployment rate, which tops 8 percent, and the growth in the nation’s debt and say Obama has failed to right the economy in his first term. In a campaign speech yesterday, Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), said Obama’s economic policies had been worse than former President Jimmy Carter’s.

In his interview, Obama said that the recovery was under way.

"Obviously we are still going through one of the toughest times that we've had in my lifetime and because of the financial crisis we lost 9 million jobs," he said. "We've recovered 4.5 million jobs since that time, and half a million manufacturing jobs, and here in Colorado you've seen sort of progress in areas like wind energy, for example, and clean energy, where because of the investments we've made you're starting to see ... people being hired."

Mitt Romney's campaign pushed back on Obama's answer, with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan telling CBS's "This Morning" on Tuesday that the country "should be bouncing out" of the recession by now.

“Four years into a presidency and it’s incomplete? The president is asking people just to be patient with him?" Ryan asked.

"If you take a look at the president's policies, he calls them investments. It's borrowing money and spending money through Washington, picking winners and losers, spending money on favorite people like Solyndra or Fisker, picking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations," Ryan continued. "If that kind of economics worked, we would be entering a golden age along with Greece. That doesn't work. So, I think the incomplete speaks for itself.”

Obama gave himself "a good solid B-plus" when asked to rate his performance at the end of 2009, following his first year in office. At the time, Obama added, "If I get healthcare passed, we tip into A-minus."

Later that year, then-House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) graded Obama as "incomplete," saying that at that point the president had yet to achieve real results. Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have more recently given him F's in various subjects.

Obama has often said on the campaign trail that he needs to win this November in order to "finish what we started" in his first term.

This story was updated at 9:08 a.m.