Job figures boost Barack Obama as buoyant Mitt Romney targets key battleground

Republican candidate bids to build on momentum in Virginia

Virginia

Desperate to recover from his limp debate performance, President Barack Obama received a major boost yesterday with a decline in the US unemployment rate to below 8 per cent, as a re-energised Mitt Romney stepped up his efforts to recapture the vital swing state of Virginia.

The actual number of new jobs created in September was an uninspiring 114,000, roughly in line with expectations. But with the campaign entering its final month and the economy the central issue, Mr Obama will be able to point to the drop in the rate to 7.8 per cent – the lowest since early 2009 – as proof that things are slowly but surely improving.

The President needs all the help he can get. Although he still holds a slight lead in the national polls and in most battleground states, including Virginia, Mr Romney's strong debate showing has lifted Republican spirits.

"I was surprised," said Doug Stader, 55, who was among the 10,000-plus who attended a packed and boisterous Romney rally here in central Virginia. "He kind of blew Obama away."

Also typical was the comment of another attendee who failed even to make it inside an event that backed up traffic on nearby interstate highways for miles. "I was really pleased," she said. "I knew he could do it, but it was about time."

In his speech, the Republican candidate hammered away at the economy, accusing Mr Obama of practising "trickle-down government" with more public spending and higher taxes.

"He talks about stimulus and more government workers," Mr Romney said. "But that will kill jobs." The only reason the unemployment rate was falling, he argued, was because people despairing of ever finding a job had stopped looking for one.

Time and again Mr Romney referred to Wednesday's debate in Denver, Colorado, one widely judged the best moment of his campaign, although its impact on the polls is yet to be seen. He said he had peppered Mr Obama with questions "about the 23 million unemployed and the problems of the middle class. I asked him those questions and you heard his answers." The crowd roared, a sea of American flags and chants of "USA, USA".

Virginia is a key piece in the electoral jigsaw Mr Romney must assemble if he is to win the White House on 6 November. The state went Democrat in 2008 for the first time since voting for Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide. If the election were held today, Mr Obama would carry Virginia again.

Without it, however, Mr Romney's chances of victory are slim. Yesterday he was holding another rally in the state. In fact, his problem is not in places like Fishersville – solid Republican country where Confederate flags are still flutter in the odd window, where gun stores abound and where one of the speakers at the rally was Wayne LaPierre, head of the powerful gun lobby group, the National Rifle Association. Unsurprisingly, the NRA has endorsed Mr Romney and Mr LaPierre warned on Thursday evening that if re-elected, Mr Obama might be in a position to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice – "and that would mean kissing our right to own a firearm goodbye".

To win Virginia, however, the Republican must somehow cut into the Mr Obama's lead in the ever-growing, increasingly Democrat suburban belt around Washington DC and reduce his opponent's huge advantage among women and minority voters.

Meanwhile, Mr Romney is trying to correct past gaffes, apologising for his remark – which was secretly taped at a closed Florida fundraiser in the spring – that 47 per of Americans considered themselves "victims" and would never vote for him. "I said something that's just completely wrong," he told the Fox News cable channel. "I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about the 100 per cent. When I become president, it will be about helping the 100 per cent."

Astonishingly, Mr Obama never mentioned the gaffe, perhaps the most damaging of the many committed by the Republican candidate, during Wednesday's debate. After Mr Romney's comprehensive retraction, the President may find it harder to do so in future.

News
people
News
Moss and Grimshaw arrive at the party
peopleKate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Nick Grimshaw at Jonathan Ross's Halloween party
News
i100Amazing Amazon review bomb
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
News
i100
Travel
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities