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Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama: Labor Day jobs debate a Democratic National Convention warm-up

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 3 2012 8:51 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2012 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Republicans and Democrats jockeyed for economic high ground in a Labor Day warm-up to the Democratic National Convention, with Republican Mitt Romney labeling the holiday "another day of worrying" for too many Americans anxious about finding a job.

Jae C. Hong, File, Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republicans and Democrats jockeyed for economic high ground in a Labor Day warm-up to the Democratic National Convention, with Republican Mitt Romney labeling the holiday "another day of worrying" for too many Americans anxious about finding a job. Supporters of President Barack Obama worked to put a glossy sheen on economic progress after offering a more muddled message over the weekend.

Obama addresses a United Auto Workers Labor Day rally in Toledo before getting his first look at the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in a stricken parish outside New Orleans. He's to meet emergency personnel who've been laboring since the storm hit last week to restore power and tend to thousands of evacuees from flooded areas.

Romney issued a statement marking Labor Day as "a chance to celebrate the strong American work ethic." But he added: "For far too many Americans, today is another day of worrying when their next paycheck will come."

Obama's backers were up early to try a morning do-over of his supporters' less-than-rosy answers Sunday when asked to answer the classic campaign question: Are Americans better off than they were four years ago?

"Absolutely," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, speaking on NBC's "Today" show. "By any measure the country has moved forward over the last four years. It might not be as fast as some people would've hoped. The president agrees with that."

Martin O'Malley, Maryland's Democratic governor, had answered the same question with a "no" on Sunday before turning the blame to Obama's Republican predecessor. Appearing Monday on CNN, O'Malley tried a more positive turn of phrase, saying: "We are clearly better off as a country because we're now creating jobs rather than losing them. But we have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession. That's why we need to continue to move forward" under Obama.

While the official convention program doesn't start until Tuesday, delegations were gathering across Charlotte on Monday for state breakfasts. Convention officials were also hosting a Labor Day festival in downtown Charlotte featuring singer James Taylor and actor Jeff Bridges.

At a breakfast with the Iowa delegation, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the chair of the convention, told about 60 members of the state's contingent that Romney and running mate Paul Ryan would pursue massive tax cuts that would benefit only the very wealthy — stances that he said were far removed from their GOP predecessors.

"Ronald Reagan would turn in his grave listening to some of these people," he said. "They're so far out there."

Villaraigosa told the Iowans that he spent 25 years as a community organizer and urged them to register new voters and recruit volunteers to help re-elect Obama.

"We've got our work cut out for us. We know that," he said. "The country is evenly divided. It has been for a long time. So what are we going to do? This is going to be a working convention. Every one of you can sign up as a volunteer. In fact, I know you're already going to volunteer."

In Boulder, Colo., on Sunday, Obama warned a college crowd that "the other side is going to spend more money than we've ever seen in our lives, with an avalanche of attack ads and insults and making stuff up, just making stuff up."

"What they're counting on is that you get so discouraged by this, that at a certain point you just say, you know what, I'm going to leave it up to somebody else." Obama did not mention his own side's arsenal of negative advertising.

The Republican convention behind him, Romney was staying low for a few days, preparing for the October debates as Democratic conventioneers gathered for the opening of their event Tuesday.

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