CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After an energized Democratic convention celebrating President Barack Obama that cranked up activists to go out and win him a second term, the tepid jobs report released Friday delivered a sobering dose of reality to the White House -- and created political openings for the Romney-Ryan ticket.
Unemployment continues to be the greatest threat to Obama's re-election -- with two more jobs reports
due before polls open on Nov. 6. With early and absentee voting starting in October -- and undecided voters starting to make up their minds -- Obama doesn't have time left to whip up a major turnaround.
The stats: The August monthly numbers show a slight dip in the jobless rate -- from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent -- with the numbers higher in key battleground states. Some 96,000 jobs were created in August, down from 141,000 in July.
The Obama team played it as upbeat news because jobs continue to be added to the economy, even if they bemoan the slow rate of growth. There have been 30 straight months of private sector growth.
But there is story behind those numbers -- and the Romney-Ryan ticket is pointing to some distressing data in the latest report: The numbers would have been worse, but were not only because people who have given up looking for a job the past month are not counted in the survey.
The 96,000 jobs created are drops in a big bucket. There were about 12.5 million unemployed Americans in August, which the Labor Department said was about the same as in July.
Obama, in his speech here Thursday night, alluded to the slow recovery from the recession that started under former President George W. Bush but has been felt hardest on Obama's watch.
"And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades," Obama said.
Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), pivoted off the August report to blame Obama for the slow economic recovery.
Campaigning in Orange City, Iowa, Romney said, "This president tried, but he didn't understand what it takes to make our economy work. I do. I will use that experience to get Americans to work again."
Ryan, stumping in Sparks, Nevada, said, "Look, President Obama is not a bad guy. No, President Obama is not a bad guy. He's good at giving great speeches. He's just really bad at creating jobs.
"And so let's take a look at where we are. We got some pretty disappointing news just today. You know, we learned today for that every person that got a job, nearly four people have stopped looking for a job; they gave up. We can't keep doing this.
"Our economy needs to create just 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the growth of our population. Friends, this is not an economic recovery; this is nowhere close to an economic recovery. We need a new president and we need a real economic recovery," Ryan said.
Obama argues his job growth strategy is slowly working. Romney can get away with saying he'll do better faster because he is the challenger and it's hard to etch concepts into stone.
In a stirring end to his speech, Obama said "We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories. And we learn from our mistakes. But we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth."
Especially if we have jobs.