Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — New Hampshire basked in attention from both presidential campaigns Friday, with thousands turning out to see President Barack Obama in Portsmouth and others headed to Nashua in the evening for a Mitt Romney rally.
"I'm sure they liked North Carolina, but we know they love New Hampshire," Gov. John Lynch said in introducing Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who made the outdoor history museum their first stop after wrapping up the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night in Charlotte. "New Hampshire is a key to the re-election of the president and vice president. We will again show the nation that New Hampshire knows how to pick presidents."
Speaking to about 6,000 people at Strawbery Banke, Obama said it was "not good enough" that private employers created just 96,000 jobs last month but said it will take a "long tough journey" to recover from the recession. His comments came as the government said unemployment fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, largely because more people stopped looking for work.
"We're going in the wrong direction," Romney, the GOP nominee, said earlier. His campaign released a television ad in New Hampshire questioning whether the state is better off under Obama's leadership.
Later, in Nashua, Romney accused Obama of failing to live up to his campaign promises, especially to spark job growth.
"He said he'd create jobs," Romney told supporters at Holman Stadium. "And instead we have unemployment still over 8 percent for 43 straight months. ... Those are real people. Those are not just numbers."
In Portsmouth, Obama echoed many of the points of his convention speech, telling supporters he needs four more years in office to finish what he started, from bringing troops home to sending more young people to college, and to further implement his vision for the nation.
"Ours is a fight for that basic bargain that built the largest middle class and strongest economy the world has ever known: the promise that hard work will pay off, that responsibility will be rewarded, that everyone gets a fair shot, everybody's doing their fair share, everybody's playing by the same rules from Wall Street to Main Street to Washington, D.C.," he said.
In contrast to the bleak national jobs report, New Hampshire's unemployment rate remains significantly lower than the national average. But even voters with jobs say they feel squeezed.
Barbara Dymond owns a taxi service in Hampton. She said she felt lucky that her business is doing OK but it has been a challenge.
"There aren't as many people out vacationing," she said. "I had to lower my prices so people without cars can get to the grocery store or elderly people can get to the doctor."
Despite that, she said she backs Obama and was glad to hear him emphasize that change is a long process.
"I think he's made a lot of progress," she said.
Despite its small size, New Hampshire has emerged as a key swing state after backing Obama in 2008 and then seeing Republicans make historic gains at the Statehouse two years later. In welcoming Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President and Jill Biden, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen referred to the "Fab Four" but she could just as well been referring to the state's four electoral votes.
Recent New Hampshire polls show Obama and Romney about even, and both campaigns have poured money into New Hampshire television advertising in addition to making frequent campaign trips.
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