Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Economic Issues, Partisan Divide Clear

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Economic Issues, Partisan Divide Clear

Article excerpt

Ashley Medellin's husband lost his Sarasota construction job two years ago and her young family struggled to get by, but the Democrat says she believes President Barack Obama has generally done a good job with the economy.

Meanwhile, sales have been up this year at the Dunedin auto parts company run by Arlene Veldhuis, but the Republican is not inclined to credit Obama for any economic improvement.

No issue has dominated this election cycle like the economy, and it remains the central focus as Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney make their closing arguments in Florida and nationwide.

The question of which candidate voters trust to stimulate job growth and protect their livelihoods could prove decisive. But perceptions of the issue remain sharply divided along partisan lines and both sides are still jockeying for advantage in the final days.

Obama is trying to convince voters that the economy is improving, if slowly, and would have been much worse without his policies. He argues that Romney's policies would risk returning to the conditions that led to the Great Recession.

Romney is hammering the president's approach as misguided while criticizing the pace of recovery. He contends that Obama relies too much on government intervention, hampering the private sector.

Both sides continued those arguments Friday as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced businesses added 171,000 jobs in October - - better than many economists expected but not enough to improve the unemployment rate.

The mixed message from the final jobs report before the election is fitting for a presidential race in which neither candidate has been able to gain a significant edge on the issue that is most important to voters.

Political experts say Romney should have an advantage on the economy because unemployment is still high and job growth has been slow.

"If you take a snapshot of where the economy is, all of the past relationships between an economy like this and election results would tell you the president is in really, really bad shape," said Christopher Mann, a University of Miami political science professor.

Polls typically have shown that more voters believe a Romney administration would be better for economic growth. A survey released on Oct. 31 by Quinnipiac University found that 49 percent of Florida voters believe Romney "would do a better job on the economy" compared with 47 percent for Obama.

But Mann said Obama remains competitive because the economy is improving, however slowly, and because he has convinced many voters that Romney's plan is no different from the policies that contributed to the recession.

Romney's salesmanship also has not helped, Mann said.

"There's been a lot of, 'I'm a businessman, trust me,' which may work when you run for Congress. But people hold presidential candidates to a higher standard of scrutiny," he said. …

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