(CBS News) Republicans are seizing on President Obama's remarks Thursday night that he at times "forgets" about the magnitude of the recession -- a remark that gave the GOP one more opportunity to hold the president accountable for the current state of the economy. The GOP pushback comes as the president's re-election team attempts to remind voters of the dire conditions Mr. Obama faced at the start of his term.
At a campaign event in Seattle, Mr. Obama recalled that the U.S. recently experienced "the worst crisis that we've seen since the Great Depression. And sometimes people forget the magnitude of it, you know?... Sometimes I forget."
Not missing a beat, the Romney campaign slammed the president Thursday evening.
"It's not surprising that a president who forgot to create jobs, forgot to cut the debt, and forgot to change Washington has now admitted that he's forgotten about the recession," Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement. "In fact, it seems that the President has forgotten that he's been in office for the last three-and-a-half years. In November, the American people won't forget."
The campaign blasted out a series of discouraging statistics strictly from the president's term in office; for instance, in last month alone, more than 340,000 workers dropped out of the labor force.
The Republican National Committee on Friday released a web video with Mr. Obama's remarks over somber music, followed by the words, "how can a sitting president forget about the recession?"
Of course, Mr. Obama didn't say he forgot about the recession. If anything, he was once again reminding voters of the economic conditions that existed when he took office. Mr. Obama went on to say, "In the last six months of 2008, while we were campaigning, nearly 3 million of our neighbors lost their jobs; 800,000 lost their jobs in the month that I took office."
Mr. Obama's re-election team has gone out of its way to remind voters of the disastrous recession that began just before the president took office. In the seven-minute video the Obama team used to officially kick off its campaign, the first minute or so recalls the recession as "cataclysmic" and a "once-in-a-century type of event." Another 30-second television ad begins by asking, "Remember how things were, just a few years ago?"
These repeated reminders from the Obama camp aren't surprising, since there is evidence to show that voters don't entirely blame the president for the nation's ongoing economic woes and that this sentiment has inflated the president's overall approval rating.
The state of the economy should be taking a bigger toll on the president's approval rating, John Sides, a George Washington University political science professor, argues in the New York Times. As one possible explanation for this, Sides points to the fact that many Americans blame the Bush administration for the poor economy. A poll from the Economist and YouGov last month showed that only a third of voters blame the president while another third blame former President Bush for the economy. A Washington Post poll from January of this year showed that 54 percent said Mr. Bush was more to blame than Mr. Obama for the current economy.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll released today shows that Mr. Obama remains relatively popular, with a 53 percent approval rating, even as Americans remain discouraged about the economy. Just 22 percent said the economy improved in the past month, down from 28 percent who said so in February.
With unemployment at 8.1 percent and about 12.5 million Americans out of work, the stalled economy remains the president's biggest vulnerability. The Associated Press-GfK poll shows voters split over whether they trust Mr. Obama or Romney more to handle the economy. The Romney campaign's task, then, is to convince voters that Mr. Obama should've done more by this point.
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