President Barack Obama pointed to the job growth reported in new unemployment figures released Friday morning as he urged supporters to vote between now and Election Day.
As he ran down a list of favorable economic data during a rally in the morning cold, Obama noted, "Companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months."
Republicans, however, focused more on the stubborn unemployment rate, which now stands at 7.9 percent, citing it as evidence that the president's policies have failed.
"Families in Ohio and across the nation are weary of the empty rhetoric," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "They are struggling to make ends meet amid a hurting economy, and the current policies are not helping to turn the economy around and create jobs for them and their children."
The exchange hinged on the latest development, but went to the central point of the closing arguments by Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Each is telling voters his policies are better for the U.S. economy.
In Ohio, Obama is finishing hard with the message that his economic vision included a bailout for car companies that kept intact the domestic industry, on which one in eight jobs in Ohio depends.
Romney said let Detroit go bankrupt, Obama said, seizing on a newspaper headline that accompanied a Romney Op-Ed article making that general point before the bailout.
Obama also criticized current Romney ads suggesting that American jobs making Jeep vehicles are shifting to China -- a claim debunked by company officials, who said they are actually expanding Jeep manufacturing in the United States as they expand production overseas.
The ads amount to dirty pool, Obama told a cheering crowd in a massive barn Friday morning. Those Jeep workers are now calling their employers, Obama said, asking, "Is that true? Are our jobs being shipped to China?"
"Except it's not true!" he shouted, his voice almost cracking on the final word. "I know we're close to an election, but this isn't a game. These are people's jobs. These are people's lives."
It was the first time Obama has spoken so directly about the Jeep ads, which Democrats fear could muddy their best line of attack in the cage match that is Ohio.
They're encouraged by what they say are early-voting advantages in the state.
Almost a quarter of Ohio voters have already cast their votes, and public polls suggest that Obama leads by almost 2-to-1 among those voters.
Republicans argue that those early voters are Democrats who otherwise would have voted on Election Day, and say they believe that Romney's supporters will still turn out in full force.
The Obama organization knows the stakes are high. Their ground operation is in overdrive, with workers toiling around the clock to make sure their voters turn out at early-voting stations this weekend or at their local polling sites on Tuesday.
"We know who our voters are," said Brian Fulcher, an Obama for America neighborhood team leader in Hilliard. "Now we just want to make sure they get to the polls."
As the president wrapped up his speech and left, Obama campaign volunteers sprang into action, ushering supporters into waiting buses to take them to the early-voting poll site nearby.
By Christi Parsons - Tribune Washington Bureau (MCT)
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