A disappointing new jobs report released Friday provided likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with the chance to attack President Barack Obama on the economy, but is not likely to be a game-changer in the close race.
The report showed the national unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent from last month, with the economy adding just 80,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Romney, speaking at a local hardware store in Wolfeboro, N.H., where he is vacationing with his family, called the rate "unacceptably high."
"The president's policies have clearly not been successful in reigniting this economy and putting people back to work and opening up manufacturing plants across the country," Romney said. "It doesn't have to be this way. The president doesn't have a plan, hasn't proposed any new ideas to get the economy going, just the same old ideas of the past that have failed."
Romney then outlined his economic proposals, which include lowering taxes, cutting regulations and expanding domestic energy production. He also called for eliminating tax exemptions and loopholes but declined to outline which he meant.
"This is a time for America to choose whether they want more of the same," Romney said. "Whether unemployment above 8 percent month after month after month is satisfactory or not. It doesn't have to be this way, America can do better. And this kick in the gut has got to end."
Obama, campaigning in Ohio for the second day of a two-day bus tour, laid the same charges against Romney—that he had no new ideas and offered only failed policies from the past.
"Their basic idea is if everybody is just on their own doing what they do everything's going to turn out just fine," Obama said, referring to Romney and Republicans in Congress. "Now, it's a theory but I think it's wrong. And the reason I think it's wrong is we just tried it."
Though Obama spoke for a little more than a half an hour in Poland, Ohio, on Friday, he only detoured from his stump speech to touch on the jobs report briefly.
"It's still tough out there. We learned this morning that our businesses created 84,000 new jobs last month and that means overall businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs," he said. "That's a step in the right direction. But we can't be satisfied."
Obama said his goal was to "get back to a time when middle class families and those working to get into the middle class have some basic security."
But he blamed the economic stagnation on partisan gridlock, not shortcomings of his policies.
"What's holding us back right now is not that we don't have good answers for how we could grow the economy faster or put more people back to work," Obama said. "The problem is we've got a stalemate in Washington. We've got two fundamentally different ideas about where we should take the country and this election is about how we break that stalemate."
The economy consistently rates the top issue on voters' minds and most political observers name it the single most important factor in determining the outcome of the November election – if it improves, Obama's chances for re-election increase and if it declines, then Romney is favored.
The numbers from the past few months have been relatively stagnant creating a climate that probably aides Romney more than Obama, but ultimately the summer doldrums have left both men clamoring for attention before a largely disinterested public.
Most Americans say the race has already been too long and dull, according to a Pew Research Center survey recently released.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.