June Jobs Report Hinders Obama Campaign

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that fewer jobs had been added to the work force than economists had expected. Plus, the unemployment rate stayed stuck at 8.2 percent. Unsurprisingly, Republicans pounced on those numbers to make their case for defeating President Obama.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Congress comes back to town this week, and once again House Republicans will vote to repeal President Obama's health care law. There have been 30 such votes. This is the first since the Supreme Court declared the law constitutional. That decision once again brought health care front and center in the presidential campaign, which has proven to be a problem for President Obama and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney.

But a bigger problem for the president was the jobs report that came out at the end of last week, and as she does most Mondays, Cokie Roberts joins us, now, with some analysis. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So on Friday we learned that the jobs numbers were flat for June, the employment rate stayed stuck at 8.2 percent. Unsurprisingly, the Republicans pounced on those numbers.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, as we just heard in Mara's report, that economic bad news is what Republicans are counting on to get Romney elected, and they're just hammering it home. How can Obama ask for four more years when, in their words, everything he's done has been a failure, and these jobs numbers prove it. And look, the Republicans are right to keep focusing on them, because that is what is likely to matter in this election.

We know that the unemployment rate, plus consumer confidence, plus whether people see the country going in the right direction, or it's off on the wrong track - those are the measurements that have been pretty good predictors of who's going to win, regardless of what happens in the campaign. So that's what the Republicans are just going to keep hammering on.

WERTHEIMER: So how do you assess the Democratic response?

ROBERTS: Well, what the Democrats are trying to do is paint a picture of Mitt Romney before the American people really get to know him well. They want to fill in the blanks. And so what they're doing is just trying to show everyone in the country that the Romneys are basically living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, and that they have Swiss bank accounts and that they have tax havens in the Cayman Islands, and that the Democratic surrogates are just saying, over and over again, Romney has not released his tax returns the way his father did when he ran for president.

And, of course, one of things that's happening is the Romneys are kind of playing into this with fancy vacations. Last night they raised $3 million in the tony Hamptons of New York, so Republican politicians are saying he needs to shake up his campaign staff so we don't see him riding around in a speedboat. And even Speaker Boehner, said last week, the American people are probably not going to fall in love with Mitt Romney, that their voting will be - 95 percent of the voters, he says, are going to go to the polls to vote against Barack Obama.

He means, of course, voters who vote for Republicans. And that is, you know, something that the Republicans are really having trouble figuring out, how to paint Mitt Romney as a candidate that voters want to go for.

WERTHEIMER: Now, President Obama is not sitting still given the economic numbers and all the Republican campaigning. There's an announcement expected from the Rose Garden today on tax cuts.

ROBERTS: And of course that is where, as you well know, being president is a big advantage. The Rose Garden. Mitt Romney doesn't get to go to the Rose Garden, and the president will surround himself we're told with middle-income families who would benefit from his proposal to have a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for people who make under $250,000. So he's trying to make this all about tax fairness.

He's saying that Mitt Romney's tax cuts would mostly go to the wealthiest Americans, so playing back into the picture of Romney that he's trying to paint.

WERTHEIMER: Cokie, always great to talk to you. Thank you.

ROBERTS: And you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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