Obama seeks bounce back after wobbly week

2012-06-12 12:00

Washington - President Barack Obama is seeking to steady his re-election bid after a wobbly week by redrawing the economic choice facing US voters and stuffing millions of dollars into his campaign war chest.

Obama was last week swamped by a torrent of bad economic news, mocked after he said the private sector was doing "fine" and forced to deny his White House was leaking intelligence on drone strikes and Iran to make him look tough.

But with his race with Mitt Romney tightening, and knowing he will likely be outspent ahead of the 6 November election, the president is making his case anew in the battleground states that will decide his fate.

On Monday, Obama gave interviews to eight local news anchors, seven of whom hailed from swing states, or media markets linked to them, arguing that he, and not Romney, can best nurture America's hurting middle class.

"This election will offer us a clear choice in terms of whether we want to pursue a path that says the only way to grow is tax cuts for the wealthy and stripping away regulations for things like the environment," Obama told Colorado station KKTV.

"Or are we going to take a path that says we're going to have a balanced approach to the deficit reduction?

Starstruck news teams

"We're going to make sure we are making investments in things like education that are really going to ensure our long term competitiveness."

Though national press reporters scoff at trips to Washington by starstruck local news teams, Obama reaped valuable coverage in key media markets from which many Americans get most of their news.

Local station websites were packed with photos of anchors enjoying White House tours, interviews with officials and snaps of Obama's dog Bo, even before they broadcast short interviews with the president.

Obama targeted key states, including Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, Iowa and Virginia in the interviews, which he used to push a new $2bn investment in rural small businesses.

If he can claim a majority of those states, he would assure himself of a second term, in what is shaping up as a close race, dominated by the slowing economy and sluggish jobs growth.

On Tuesday, Obama will pack in six fundraisers in Baltimore, Maryland and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a week after it was revealed that Romney piled up $76m in May, well outpacing the president's $60m-plus total.

Struggles of the ordinary

Obama will be back on the trail of big money on Thursday, at a star-studded fundraiser in New York hosted by Sex and the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

Also on Thursday, Obama will hit another battleground state, Ohio, where the recession deepened economic pain inflicted by the flight of blue collar jobs to low-wage economies abroad.

He is expected to lay out the choices in the election and to argue that he, and not Romney - a multi-millionaire former venture capitalist - understands the struggles of ordinary Americans.

Obama will also leverage the symbolic power of the presidency - and garner more positive news coverage - by attending a ceremony marking the near completion of a new building on the site of the destroyed World Trade Centre.

The latest polls show the race neck-and-neck, with Romney having whittled away the president's long-standing lead.

In a RealClearPolitics average of recent national polls, Obama led the former Massachusetts governor by 1.4%, though is still considered to have a narrow advantage in key state races.

Out of touch

The president's momentum was checked by the release of official data for May showing that the slowing economy only created 69 000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 8.2%.

While Obama sought to press home key campaign themes, his aides had to fight back against Romney's team over the president's perceived private sector gaffe in a news conference on Friday.

Romney web videos claimed Obama's statement - a clumsy attempt to say jobs growth was being held back by a contracting public sector - proved he was "out of touch with the middle class".

Obama's team in turn seized on Romney's criticism of the president's plan to employ more teachers, firefighters and police officers, which he styled as a bid to expand an already bloated public sector.

The president's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told reporters that the remarks proved the Republican had a "job elimination plan".