President Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and Mitt Romney senior campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on Sunday battled over the economy, with the Romney aide saying weak jobs numbers showed “a deficit in leadership.”
“This president came into office without any prior experience running anything. He never even ran a corner store. And I think it shows in the way that he's handling the economy,” Fehrnstrom said on ABC’s This Week, of May’s jobs report.
She placed the blame on lawmakers who she said had not passed key jobs growth measures and were “rooting for failure” to score political points.
“The proposals that we've put forward that have been sitting there for nine months, you know, independent estimates have put those proposals at a million jobs,” Cutter said. “So there are a million jobs sitting on that table in Congress right now that they could -- they could move on. They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure.”
Friday’s jobs report showed that last month the economy only added 69,000 jobs and unemployment rose to 8.2 percent.
The figures were a worrying sign to many on the Obama campaign with polls consistently showing that voters rank the economy as the most important issue. Romney was quick to hammer the president, calling the data “devastating.”
Obama said he knew the economic recovery “wouldn’t be easy” and urged patience. His campaign has made a strong push to blame the still weak economy on the former administration, arguing that while Obama has helped the economy grow, conditions at the start of his term were worse than expected.
Fehrnstrom Sunday continued to hammer on the weak data. “This president is not adding jobs fast enough,” he said. “And I think for anybody who is urgently waiting for improvement in the economy, last week was not a good week.
“It's not just the devastatingly weak jobs report we got on Friday. It was also the revision in GDP downward for the first quarter. It's a drop in consumer confidence. It was an increase in unemployment claims. And it's not that we don't think that this president is trying. I think he is. It's just that his policies are not working,” he added.
Fehrnstrom touted Romney’s years in the private sector saying that they had given him the edge to help manage the economy, skills he said Obama lacked. “We gave the keys to the largest economy in the world to a person who did not have any prior executive leadership experiences. Gov. Romney has led in the private sector. He organized and ran the Winter Olympic Games in 2002. He's run a state successfully. I think that's a big difference between these two.”
Romney’s tenure as the head of private equity firm Bain Capital has been a focus of Democratic attacks, which have sought to depict Romney as personally profiting from the shuttering of American businesses.
Cutter on Sunday defended Obama's handling of the economy, saying a closer look at the report showed that the job market had been aided by the administration’s policies.
“If you looked at the report on Friday, the areas where we are doing well are areas that we've been able to affect policy,” she said.
“Manufacturing jobs continue to rise. And that's precisely because the president stepped in and did what nobody else was willing to do to save the auto industry. And that has had a great impact on manufacturing jobs up and down the supply chain.”
Cutter continued to press lawmakers to implement more measures to aid the economy. “That report also showed areas that are still hurting, particularly teachers and construction workers. And that just shows the wisdom of the president's policies, because we have two very -- two policies sitting on the desk of Congress right now that they could act on to put teachers back to work and put construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges and highways.”
Obama has pushed Congress to pass his “to-do list” of job measures, but has seen little success in selling his economic prescriptions to congressional Republicans.
Friday’s jobs report could present a turning point in the race, as the May report is the strongest evidence yet that the labor market has not fully recovered. Job growth was strong earlier in the year, but the last two months have shown a slowdown.
"The economy is growing again but it's not growing as fast as we want it to grow," Obama said in a speech Friday in Minnesota. "We've got a lot of work to do until we get to where we need to be."