President Obama returns to the White House Sunday on Marine One after a weekend… (Yuri Gripas / Pool / Getty…)
WASHINGTON — Another disappointing jobs report landing in a largely status-quo presidential race had Democrats and Republicans returning to their respective rhetorical corners, relying on well-worn talking points as both candidates prepared to return to the campaign trail this week.
For Republicans, the case against President Obama went something like this Sunday: An economy barely in recovery mode is now losing steam. The unemployment rate is several points higher than what the administration promised when it pushed its massive stimulus bill, and the healthcare law represents the big-government approach that has hindered further growth.
The Democratic answer: We've made progress, but there's more work to do. The president's policies — including an auto rescue package that Mitt Romney opposed — led to a revival of American manufacturing, but an obstructionist Republican Congress blocked further jobs initiatives.
And by the way, have you heard about Romney's Swiss bank account?
It's a version of the same song voters have been hearing for much of the past several months, and likely will continue to hear barring any significant change in the economy or the emergence of another issue.
That argument has produced a stasis in the polls. Gallup's daily tracking poll has largely fluctuated within the margin of error since it began testing the Obama-Romney matchup; Obama now leads 47% to 45%.
The economy remains the top concern for voters, and Friday's job report ensured it was the dominant topic for party surrogates on the Sunday talk shows. The Labor Department data showed the U.S. added just 80,000 jobs in June and that the unemployment rate held steady at 8.2%.
"This is the most tepid recovery — if it is a recovery — from a deep recession in American history," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on CNN's "State of the Union." "The economy is just sputtering along and the reason for that, in my judgment, is because of what the administration chose to do: spend, borrow, pass this new Obamacare law with its penalty tax in it, its mandate tax."
The Democratic National Committee chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, highlighted the positive in the numbers: 28 straight months of private-sector job growth, and 4.4 million jobs added since Obama took office.
"The progress that we are making is moving us forward," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "We haven't gone far enough. But we need to keep pressing forward and continue to focus on middle-class tax breaks and making sure that we can create jobs and make sure that we get the economy moving forward, and great if Republicans would join us in that effort."
Her Republican counterpart, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, said the statistics mean little and that Democrats were "living in fantasy land."
"We can numb everybody's mind watching this with the numbers, but the fact of the matter is, is that there are almost half a million more people unemployed today than four years ago," he said. "Remember, they said if we pass this trillion-dollar stimulus that we'd have 5.5% unemployment today. What that means, if they kept their promises, there would be 8.5 million more people employed today."
Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, now a senior advisor to the president's reelection campaign, focused on the contrast between Obama and Romney. The Republican answer to creating jobs is the same one that failed under the last administration, he argued, while painting Romney as an imperfect messenger for renewing the domestic economy.
"This is a guy whose slogan is believe in America, and it should be business in Bermuda, that is what Mitt Romney is all about," Gibbs said on CNN, referring to reports about the investment of Romney's assets.
"I've never known of a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs, or Swiss bank accounts to rebuild the levees to protect the people of New Orleans," added Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley on ABC's "This Week."
"Look, the bottom line is, I'm thrilled that Mitt Romney has been successful in the private sector. I want somebody who's got that private-sector experience," answered Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Romney and Obama will take up the arguments themselves this week after a relatively quiet period. The president, who fit a two-day bus tour between two weekends at Camp David, will campaign in Iowa on Tuesday and Virginia at week's end. Romney, after more than a week at his New Hampshire vacation home, travels to Colorado on Tuesday and will address the NAACP convention Wednesday in Houston.