RACINE, Wis. — Nancy Underwood was surprised how many statistics First Lady Michelle Obama threw out during a campaign rally here on Friday.”It was very impressive,” said Underwood, a 65-year-old retired businesswoman from Racine. “She’s not just speaking in generalities.”
As the economic picture starts to brighten heading into the crucial final 17 days of the election, the Obama campaign is seizing the moment. The First Lady threw fresh stats into two stump speeches in Wisconsin on Friday, and former President Bill Clinton heralded the economic progress during President Barack Obama’s first three-plus years in office.
It’s obvious the campaign is still approaching the gentle topic of economic recovery with care. But it is hedging a bet that the recovery is starting to be felt in places like Racine, where a steep decline in manufacturing jobs during the recession has given way to a lukewarm recovery.
“And while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, let me tell you — there are more and more signs every day that we’re headed in the right direction,” Michelle Obama said Friday in Racine.
“The stock market has doubled. Exports have grown by 45 per cent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. Do you hear me? We have had 31 straight months — most of this President’s term — of private sector job growth, a total of 5.2 million new jobs created right here in the United States of America. Those are the facts.”
Later in the day came Clinton’s rousing, 57-minute speech to a fired-up crowd at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
During the speech, he scolded “impatient” Americans who complained that the economy was not yet “hunky dory,” repeating over and over the common Clinton theme that no one could have fixed in only four years the situation Obama walked into in 2009.
But in Green Bay, Clinton had the opportunity to pump up new stats into his stump speech for the president that not-so-subtly reminded attendees of the Clinton economy.
“We’re at a four-year high in auto buying. We’re at a four-year high in new-home buying, ” Clinton said.
“When the unemployment rate dropped from 9 to 7.8 per cent in a year, that is the largest one-year drop since my third year as president.”
Clinton thinks he has figured out the problem: People don’t “feel” the recovery yet. Fair enough, he said. He said that as president, people didn’t “feel” that the debt was being reduced until the third year in a row it went down.
“I am telling you — we are coming out of this. We are moving in the right direction. If you stay with this policy, and you stay with the president … you will feel it,” Clinton said.
The Obama campaign’s emphasis on economic numbers comes at a time when more people in the crucial swing state of Ohio, for example, are starting to look more optimistically toward the economy. 40-six per cent of Ohio voters in a new Quinnipiac/CBS poll say the state economy is getting better, compared with just 22 per cent that say it’s getting worse. That 24-point gap has swung 17 points from early August.
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