For its part, the Romney campaign on Friday released a new television ad promising "a better day" and declaring that a Romney presidency would focus from the start on the economy and the deficit, unleash U.S. energy resources, and stand up to China on trade. "President Romney's leadership puts jobs first," the ad states.
Obama could face the highest unemployment rate on Election Day of any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But his aides argue that the trend line is more important than the actual number. Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid in 1980 to Ronald Reagan as unemployment climbed from 6 percent to 7.5 percent. George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 as unemployment rose from 6.9 percent to 7.6 percent.
But while Reagan faced an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent in October 1984, the rate had been dropping since the spring of 1983. He went on to win re-election.
Obama has few policy moves that would help his own trend line, and the European crisis is out of his control. That makes Obama's effort to frame the election a choice between him and Romney the only viable strategy.
Obama can find some solace in unemployment rates that have dropped sharply in several swing states. But those numbers can be deceiving and an employed voter is not necessarily an Obama voter.
A May Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 52 percent of those surveyed disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy while 46 percent approved.
Some Republicans note that even though employers might be hiring, many workers have had to settle for less.
"They are gainfully employed, but they are not happy," said Wes Anderson, a Republican pollster who has conducted surveys in several swing states. "They don't like the job they're in and they're making less money."
And that, Republicans say, makes these voters a prime target for Romney.
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