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Obama v. Romney: Who offers best long-term US economic policies?

Brad KnickerbockerThe Christian Science Monitor

Surrogates for Mitt Romney and President Obama trolled the TV talk shows Sunday, giving their spin on Friday’s dismal jobs numbers and setting the scene for the presidential campaign’s main point of contention: Who’ll be the best man to deal with the troubled US economy.

"Nobody is happy with the rate of job creation today, but I believe without the policies the president put in place we wouldn't have even this level of job creation today," former Obama auto czar Steve Rattner told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

The economy added just 69,000 jobs in May as the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent. More troubling for Obama could be the revision in the growth rate of the gross domestic product for the first quarter from 2.2 percent to 1.9 percent. A president seeking reelection historically needs to head into the fall with a GDP growth rate over 3 percent to have a good chance at victory, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told the Boston Globe.

But Mr. Rattner and others in the Democratic camp are focusing on the hand dealt Obama when he took office in 2009.

"President Obama arrived to find 700,000 jobs a month being lost in this country," he said." "Since early 2010, when the job picture began to recover, we've added over 4 million jobs in this country – we’ve added jobs every month since then."

(For their part, very few Republicans extol former president George W. Bush’s record as the economy headed toward a ditch.)

Also speaking on Fox News, Romney advisor Ed Gillespie hammered the harm he says Obama is doing to “job creators” – specifically, the cost to small businesses of “Obamacare” and delays in building the Keystone pipeline.

“This is a hostile environment for job creation in our economy and that's why, frankly, it has a sense of urgency in terms of this year's election to be able to turn things around because the only thing that's going to change it are changing the policies and that means changing the person in the White House,” Mr. Gillespie said. “Governor Romney’s experience and his record and his positive agenda for turning this country around, I think, are what’s going to prevail at the end of the day.”

"It's not that we don't think that this president is trying,” Romney campaign senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said on ABC’s “This Week” roundtable. “I think he is.”

“It's just that his policies are not working,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said. “We gave the keys to the largest economy in the world to a person who did not have any prior executive leadership experiences."

“Governor Romney has led in the private sector,” Fehrnstrom continued. “He organized and ran the Winter Olympic Games in 2002. He’s run a state successfully. I think that’s a big difference between these two.”

The problem, say Democrats, is that Republican lawmakers are dragging their heels on proposals Obama has put forth for partisan political gain. (Or as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has said, the GOP's top priority is making Obama a one-term president.)

As the President himself put it in his radio address Saturday: “Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states prevent more layoffs, so we can put thousands of teachers and firefighters and police officers back on the job. Congress should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our runways. Instead of just talking a good game about job creators, Congress should give small business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.”

Also speaking on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, said an estimated 1 million jobs would result if Congress approved Obama's job proposals.

"They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure," she said. "That's really what's going on right now."

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and an Obama supporter, and Obama senior adviser David Axelrod also criticized lawmakers.

"What we have right now is a Congress which has decided that there is a political advantage in stymieing this president, putting ideology ahead of country," Gov. Patrick said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

On CBS' "Face the Nation," Mr. Axelrod put it this way: "These are the architects of obstruction, and now they're complaining about the pace of the recovery. They should put down their political hats and join us and help solve these problems."

At least one Romney surrogate gave Obama some credit for stimulating the economy.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell acknowledged that Obama’s economic stimulus package had helped his state balance its budget.

“Did it help us in the short run with health care and education and spending to balance the budget? Sure,” Gov. McDonnell said.

But, he added, “Does it help us in the long term to really cut the unemployment rate? I’d say no.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.