THE RACE: Stagnant jobs numbers a factor in race

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By TOM RAUM, Associated Press

Unemployment has hovered at just over 8 percent for months. And the presidential race seems to have reached a plateau as well.

So far, neither President Barack Obama nor GOP rival Mitt Romney has been able to break out and move ahead.

The lack of volatility in national polls underscores the importance of the economy as the top issue. Nothing else said or done by either campaign seems to matter — for now.

That doesn't keep them from trying. The campaigns and related groups are spending vast sums, much of it on negative ads in a dozen or so battleground states.

Obama campaigned Friday in one of them, Virginia, a usually Republican-leaning state he won in 2008.

He talked with military families in a café in Virginia Beach.

"This is going to be a close one," he told an overflow crowd before a rally at a high school. "We're going to have to work hard ... When we win Virginia, we're going to have won the election." When a president runs for re-election, the race is almost always a referendum on the incumbent's performance. And continued stagnant job growth won't be good news for Obama in the months ahead.

Unemployment has not been below 8 percent since January 2009 when he took office, peaking at 10 percent in October 2009 and only inching down since. It's held at 8.2 percent for the last two months.

Likewise, polls haven't fluctuated much — mostly keeping the candidates locked in a dead heat within the margins of error.

Obama was also campaigning Saturday in Virginia, with stops in Richmond and Roanoke.

Romney had no public appearances Friday after raising more than $4 million Thursday night at a fundraiser in Wyoming with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who called him "a great American leader."

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