- Reviving the economy will "require me being elected president," Romney says
- Barack Obama touts jobs creation, but says more must be done
- Both campaigns visited New Hampshire and Iowa on Friday
- The states are key battlegrounds in the November election
Now it begins. All over again.
The primary season over and the nominating conventions complete, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama hit the ground running Friday for the final stretch of a campaign that began, for Romney at least, more than a year ago in Iowa.
Over the next 60 days of campaigning, much of it focusing on key battleground states, the two men will pitch their visions for the country to a divided electorate.
They spent Friday in two states that have long figured prominently in presidential elections, and which are considered up for grabs this year: Iowa and New Hampshire.
President Obama, fresh off his speech Thursday night accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, began his day with a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Vice President Joe Biden and their wives. Meanwhile, Republican challenger Romney addressed supporters in Orange City, Iowa.
Later, the candidates swapped states -- with Obama and Biden traveling to Iowa City for an event at the University of Iowa while Romney spoke to supporters in Nashua, New Hampshire.
While many of their speeches echoed remarks they've made in recent weeks, including at their respective national conventions, one new and hot topic Friday -- especially for Republicans -- was a worse-than-expected jobs report issued by the Department of Labor.
While unemployment fell to 8.1% in August from 8.3% the month before, the dip was largely the result of fewer people looking for work, an analysis of the data showed.
The economy added 96,000 jobs in August, but that's down from 141,000 the month before. Economists polled by CNNMoney had predicted 120,000 new jobs in August.
Speaking to reporters Friday in Sioux City, Iowa, Romney called the latest report "very disappointing," stating that for "every net new job created, approximately four people dropped out of the workforce."
"After the party last night, the hangover today," Romney said, referring to Thursday's Democratic National Convention.
The former Massachusetts governor also played up the jobs report at his public rallies Friday, vowing to overturn Obama's signature health plan and institute a number of new policies that he says will energize the economy.
"This economy is going to come back in a big way ... but it is going to require me being elected president," Romney said in Nashua, eliciting a roar from the supportive crowd.
Obama fired back in his Portsmouth appearance, stressing the positive news that businesses had created jobs for the 30th straight month. But he ackowledged the pace was insufficient.
"We know it's not good enough. We need to create more jobs, faster," the president said.
And as he did during his speech Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama specified several economic-related pledges and said it could take years for the economy to be back at full steam.
But any progress thus far will be for naught, and everyday Americans will be sold out, if Romney wins the election, he said.
"If you turn away now -- if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible -- well, change will not happen," he said in his speech.
He said voters will have "a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
In response, Romney said Obama was offering more of the same policies he said have led to high unemployment, rising deficits and a slow economic recovery.
"Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record -- they know they're not better off and that it's time to change direction," the Romney campaign said in a statement.
In Iowa, he reiterated the charge, and said Obama's acceptance speech highlighted his opponent's shortcomings.
"There was nothing in the speech that gives confidence that the president knows what he is doing when it comes to jobs and the economy," Romney said.
In the latest CNN/ORC International poll -- conducted before the Democratic convention -- Obama and Romney were tied. In the poll of 1,005 likely voters, 48% said they would support Romney and an identical number backed Obama.
About 2% said they favored neither candidate, and 1% had no opinion.