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Romney seizes on job figures to blame US 'misery' on Obama

President hits back at Republican's attack during tour of crucial must-win states

Another consignment of discouraging employment numbers in the United States was seized on yesterday by Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger in the presidential race, as evidence that the economic policies of President Barack Obama are misconceived and that voters should fire him in November.

With the economy likely to decide the 2012 election, Mr Romney will be hoping to gain fresh momentum from the latest Labor Department jobs report. It said that US employers added a mere 80,000 new jobs in June, lower than forecast and not enough to shift an unemployment rate stuck at 8.2 per cent.

"American families are struggling; there's a lot of misery in America today," Mr Romney declared. "The President's policies have not gotten America working again. And the President is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it." He added: "This kick in the gut has got to end."

A week after Mr Obama was boosted by a US Supreme Court ruling upholding his healthcare reforms, his campaign prospects have dimmed again. The Romney campaign is proving a fundraising juggernaut, hauling in $100m (£65m) in June alone. The government last week also revealed that US manufacturing shrank in June for the first time in nearly three years.

The monthly job figures are not likely to improve significantly before the November vote, a reality that will weigh heavily on Mr Obama's re-election efforts.

The jobs report dropped as President Obama was midway through a bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania, two of his must-win states. He told supporters in Poland, Ohio, that the numbers were a "step in the right direction", and warned that Mr Romney has a low-tax, supply-side and trickle-down vision that would mean a return to the policies of George W Bush.

"Their basic idea is if everyone is on their own doing what they do, everyone is going to be just fine," Mr Obama suggested to ripples of laughter. "Now it's a theory, but I think it's wrong… We just tried it. We tried it in the decade before I took office." But if the election comes to down to trust and which of the two men is likely to right the economy, the road ahead for Mr Obama looks bumpy. Recent polls show a majority of Americans remain unhappy with his stewardship of the economy. Meanwhile yesterday's jobs report came at a time when voters are beginning to form more concrete views about who they will support in November.

Mr Romney will meanwhile be seeking to bolster any fresh momentum for his campaign by unveiling his choice of a running mate, perhaps earlier rather than later but certainly before the party convention at the end of August.

Secrecy remains tight around the process but speculation has begun to focus on Senator Rob Portman, who is regarded as solid if a bit grey. More important, perhaps, is his home state: Ohio.