President Barack Obama greets people on the tarmac as he arrives at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
CLEVELAND — A positive jobs report provided President Obama with sunny news to take to a rally on Friday, despite a steady downpour, as he tried to rebound from a disappointing debate performance earlier in the week.
Some 9,000 supporters cheered from under their ponchos as Mr. Obama stood without hat or umbrella to deliver a 20-minute speech in Cleveland State University's soccer stadium.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Friday that the national unemployment rate for September was 7.8 percent, the first time it was below 8 percent since January, 2009.
The unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent nationally in October, 2010, and has been gradually dropping since.
"Today I believe that as a nation, we are moving forward again. When I was sworn into office we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office," Mr. Obama said. “Today’s news should give us some encouragement. It shouldn’t be an excuse for the other side to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points.”
Mr. Obama responded to some of the assertions that GOP opponent Mitt Romney made in the debate Wednesday.
“My opponent was doing a lot of tap dancing at the debate the other night, trying to wiggle out of stuff he's been saying for a year, like Dancing with the Stars, or maybe it was an Extreme Makeover: Debate Edition,” Mr. Obama jested.
"But no matter what he says, my opponent, he’s a big believer of these top-down economics. He thinks that if we spend another $5 trillion on tax cuts that favor the wealthiest, we get rid of more regulations on Wall Street, all of our problems are going to be solved. Jobs and prosperity will rain down from the sky. Deficits will magically disappear," Mr. Obama said.
He urged supporters to vote and to encourage others to support him, and then recalled that 47 percent of voters did not support him in 2008.
"I didn't say, well, I'm not going to worry about those folks," he said.
“I don't know how many folks will vote for me this time in Ohio. I’m here to tell everybody — independents, Republicans, Tea Party, all of you — I will be your President too. I will fight just as hard for you," Mr. Obama said. “I know I’m preaching to the choir here because you all are standing in the rain," he continued. "A little rain never hurt anybody. Some of these policies from the other side could hurt a whole lot of folks."
The President said that he would continue to support programs that help college students pay their tuition. He mocked Mr. Romney's promise during the debate to abolish spending that he didn't think justifies borrowing money from China to pay for, such as public-television subsidies.
"Somebody’s finally getting tough on Big Bird. Governor Romney's going to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring down the hammer on Sesame Street, " Mr. Obama said.
He continued his assertion that Mr. Romney’s tax cut will cost $5 trillion, saying Republicans put two wars and two tax cuts on the national credit card. “Now Mr. Romney wants another $5 trillion in tax cuts that he can’t pay for."
Mr. Romney insisted during the debate that his tax cut would not cost $5 trillion, and denied that it would lower the overall tax rate for wealthy taxpayers.
Mr. Obama quoted Mr. Romney as ruling out eliminating a deduction for oil exploration, a line that appeared to conflict with what Mr. Romney said in the debate.
"He said, no way he was going to close loopholes that are giving big oil companies billions of dollars each year in corporate welfare," Mr. Obama told an appreciative crowd.
During the debate, Mr. Romney said a deduction for oil exploration, which he said goes to small companies, not petroleum giants like ExxonMobil, costs the government $2.8 billion a year.
"If we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it's on the table," Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Obama didn't repeat remarks he made earlier in the day in Virginia, where he appeared to be targeting women’s votes by accusing Mr. Romney of planning to take the country backwards on the availability of contraceptives.
"There’s nothing conservative about a government that prevents a woman from making her own health-care decisions," he told listeners at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va.
Among the politicians in the Cleveland State crowd was U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) who is running for re-election in a district that now includes part of west Cleveland.
Her opponent is Springfield Township resident Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said the new job numbers are far off from where they should be, and criticized President Obama for trying to take credit for Ohio's economic growth.
"It's disappointing that President Obama keeps coming to Ohio claiming credit for things he didn't do. His message of more regulation, red tape, and taxes as a path to economic prosperity makes as much sense as foot warmers on the beach, and it doesn't resonate in Ohio,” Mr. Bennett said.
Meanwhile, a new poll showed the race tightening in battleground Ohio, possibly the result of strong reviews for Mr. Romney's performance Wednesday night in the first of three debates.
Rasmussen Reports released a new survey of 500 likely voters taken on Thursday that had President Obama at 50 percent and Mr. Romney at 49 percent, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points either way.
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