Jobs report boosts Obama; Romney not impressed

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Mitt Romney was still celebrating his widely praised debate performance when the campaign lurched in a

different direction.

Unemployment dropped last month to the lowest level since 2009, and suddenly it was President Barack Obama's turn to smile.

In a race dominated by the weak economy,

Obama said Friday the creation of 114,000 jobs in September, coupled

with a drop

in unemployment to 7.8 percent, was "a reminder that this country

has come too far to turn back now." Jabbing at his rival's

plans, he declared, "We've made too much progress to return to the

policies that caused this crisis in the first place."

But Romney saw little to like in the day's new government numbers.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like," the former Massachusetts governor and businessman said, an analysis echoed

by other Republicans throughout the day. "We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than

in July, and we've lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office," Romney added.

"If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11%,"

he said.

Incumbent and challenger alike campaigned in

battleground states during the day, each man starting out in Virginia

before

the president headed for Ohio and Romney flew to Florida. Those

three states, along with Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire,

Wisconsin, North Carolina and Iowa make up the nine battleground

states where the race is likely to be decided. Among them,

they account for 110 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the

White House.

Both campaigns kept up a television advertising war with a price tag approaching $750 million when outside group spending

is included.

Romney launched three new commercials during

the day, one aimed at voters in Nevada, a second targeted to Ohio and a

third

that says Obama claims "he is creating jobs, but he's really

creating debt," running up deficits and spending unnecessarily.

"He's not just wasting it. He's borrowing it and then wasting it,"

the narrator says.

Romney's strong showing in the campaign's

first general election debate cheered Republicans who had worried about

his campaign,

and forced Obama's aides into a rare public acknowledgement that

they would have to adjust their strategy for the next encounter.

The jobs report was the main flashpoint of the day, and Obama scolded Republicans for their reaction.

"Today's news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points," he said as Romney

and most GOP lawmakers emphasized portions of the report other than the drop in the unemployment rate to the same level as

when the president took office.

Republicans made it clear they wanted to keep the focus on Wednesday night's debate, when Romney appeared confident as he

pitched his case for a new approach to the economy and Obama turned in a performance that even some Democrats conceded was

subpar.