Surrogates for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney took turns assigning blame for May's grim job figures on Fox News Sunday and ABC's This Week, as the candidates try to spin a paltry 69,000 new jobs into a positive talking point.
May showed the weakest job growth rate of the year, with unemployment swinging up to 8.2 percent, according to Labor Department statistics released Friday, falling well short of economists' predictions of 150,000 jobs gained.
Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter exchanged barbs over the latest figures during This Week.
What we really have here is a deficit in leadership, Fehrnstrom said. And this president came into office without any prior experience running anything. He never even ran a corner store. And I think it shows in the way that he's handling the economy.
Cutter parsed the figures to portray them as a success for Obama's policies and left the bad news on congressional Republicans' doorstep, attributing the anemic economy to a Congress blocking the remaining Obama agenda.
If you looked at the report on Friday, the areas where we are doing well are areas that we've been able to affect policy, Cutter said. The proposals that we've put forward that have been sitting there for nine months. They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure.
Ed Gillespie, a senior campaign adviser for Romney, portrayed Obama's health care overhaul, uncertainty over looming tax increases and ramped-up regulation as toxic to any sort of economic recovery on Fox News Sunday.
This is a hostile environment for job creation in our economy, said Gillespie. And that's why, frankly, it adds 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.
Steve Rattner, Obama's former auto industry czar, said during the same program the president's policies since taking office in 2009 prevented an all-out economic collapse.
I believe without the policies the president put in place we wouldn't have even this level of job creation today, Rattner said.
The numbers have created a headache for the Obama campaign, which has banked on strong economic growth to help bolster the candidate's re-election prospects. The Romney campaign and congressional Republicans have clung to the surprisingly dismal unemployment figures as evidence of wrong-headed policy decisions by the White House.