President Barack Obama began the 60-day sprint to Election Day facing another lackluster report on the nation's economy: just 96,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate that remains over 8 percent.
Looming over his quest is this daunting fact: No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been elected to a consecutive term with unemployment that high.
The numbers were released Friday morning, just hours after Obama closed the three-day Democratic National Convention and accepted his party's nomination with a speech in which he asked voters to stick with him as he works to fix the economy. "The truth is," he said, "it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades."
Mitt Romney seized on the jobs report as proof that Obama doesn't deserve another chance. He likened Friday morning's news as a post-convention hangover.
"There's almost nothing the president's done in the last three and a half, four years to give the American people confidence he knows what he's doing when it comes to jobs and the economy," Romney told reporters in Sioux City, Iowa, according to the Associated Press.
Obama and Romney are locked in a neck-and-neck race that will turn on a sliver of undecided voters in a few battleground states. While polls indicate that voters like Obama more than Romney, they are much less confident in his handling of the economy.
For Obama, the good news is that the unemployment rate dropped slightly, from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent. And the modest increase in jobs, while modest, marks a sustained growth in private sector jobs.
But much of the drop in the unemployment rate is attributable to more people giving up their searches for work, the AP reported.
Campaigning in New Hampshire Friday, Obama hit many of the same themes, and many of the same lines, of his Thursday night nomination speech. Speaking at at the Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth, he admitted the need to do more to "create more jobs faster" and "get out of this stronger than when we went in."
He described his blueprint for creating more jobs in the next four years: invest in domestic manufacturing, make college more affordable and enhance America's domestic energy production to include more "renewable" sources like wind, solar, natural gas and "clean coal."
Obama said Romney wants to return to the "failed" formula of tax cuts and small government. The president also chided Republicans for blocking a jobs bill he proposed last year, which the president said would have put a million more people to work.
Later, at a campaign stop in Orange City, Iowa, Romney called the jobs report "simply unimaginable" and accused Obama of falling short of a promise to bring the unemployment rate down to 5.4 percent. Romney did his own number crunching and said the difference between the current jobless rate and 5.4 percent equates to about 9 million people.
"This president tried, but he didn't understand what it takes to make our economy work," said Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and founder of a venture capital firm. "I do. I will use that experience to work again."
Romney summarized his own plan that he said would create 12 million new jobs in his first four years in office: bolster domestic energy production, increase education reform efforts, negotiate new trade agreements, cut the deficit, repeal Obama's health care overhaul and lower taxes and soften regulations for small businesses.