Last Updated:November 26 @ 08:00 am

Are Americans better off? Obama aides won't say

By Ben Feller and David Espo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Flinching in the face of economic weakness, President Barack Obama's top aides refused to say Sunday in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention if Americans are better off than they were four years ago.

Obama campaigned in Colorado and Vice President Joe Biden in Pennsylvania as their senior surrogates sought to deflect discomforting questions and turn them into criticism of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"The Romney path would be the wrong path for the middle class, the wrong path for this country," said David Plouffe, one of Obama's top White House aides.

But responding to the question that has become a staple of presidential campaigns, he sidestepped when asked if Americans are better off than when Obama took office.

"We've clearly improved ... from the depths of the recession," he said.

Another aide, David Axelrod, said, "I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it's going to take some time to work through it."

Not only the economy, but the weather was also a concern for the Democrats with Obama planning to deliver his prime-time acceptance speech on Thursday night before a crowd of tens of thousands at a football stadium.

An enormous sand sculpture made in Obama's likeness served as a reminder, as if any were needed, that the Democrats were in town. A drenching rain caused damage on Saturday just as work was finishing on the project, but the five-member crew said they had been able to make repairs.

Planeloads of delegates flew into their convention city for two days of receptions before their first meeting in the Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets around the hall, protesting what they call corporate greed as well as U.S. drone strikes overseas said to kill children as well as terrorists.

No arrests were reported as dozens of police officers walked along with the parade, carrying gas masks, wooden batons and plastic hand ties.

Biden, campaigning in York, Pa., took a swipe at Romney on foreign policy.

"He said it was a mistake to end the war in Iraq and bring all of our warriors home," the vice president said. "He said it was a mistake to set an end date for our warriors in Afghanistan and bring them home. He implies by the speech that he's ready to go to war in Syria and Iran. "

Democrats have been critical of Romney for making no mention of the war in Afghanistan when he accepted the Republican nomination in Tampa, Fla., last week. He previously criticized Obama for setting a public date for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from the war.

Romney also has faulted Obama for allowing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to remain in power. Yet his aides have refused to say for a week if he agrees with French President Hollande's promise to extend diplomatic recognition to a provisional government if Syrian rebels form one.

Romney spent Sunday at his Wolfeboro, N.H., vacation home, leaving only to attend church services with his wife, Ann.

Aides said he would spend much of the Democrats' convention week preparing for three fall debates with Obama, beginning on Oct. 3.

Running mate Paul Ryan was booked into North Carolina, counterprogramming the Democratic convention rhetoric.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivers the keynote speech on Tuesday, followed by First lady Michelle Obama's remarks.

Obama and Biden will be nominated for second terms on Wednesday night, when former President Bill Clinton has the role of star speaker.

Biden and Obama, deliver their nomination acceptance speeches on Thursday, the convention's final night.

The economy has recovered fitfully at best from the worst recession in decades, and national unemployment is 8.3 percent. Joblessness was spiking when Obama took office and peaked at over 10 percent before it began receding during his term.

While Republicans want the election to be a simple referendum on Obama's handling of the economy, he and the Democrats are determined to make Election Day a choice between him and his rival.

That strategy was on display in the Sunday interview programs.

Plouffe, asked on ABC to answer the better-off question with a yes or no, replied: "I think everybody understands we were this close to a Great Depression. We staved that off. We're beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do. We need to grow jobs more quickly, we need to grow middle-class incomes more quickly."

Axelrod, on Fox, said, "I can say that we're in a better position than we were four years ago in our economy in the sense that when this president took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The quarter before he took office was the worst quarter that this country has had economically since the Great Depression, and we are in a different place, 29 straight months of job growth, 4.5 million private sector jobs."

"Are we where we need to be? No. But the problem with what Governor Romney said is for three days they never offered anybody a plausible alternative."


Ben Feller reported from Boulder, Colo. Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in York, Pa., Kasie Hunt in Wolfeboro, N.H., and Michael Biesecker, Mitch Weiss and Beth Fouhy in North Carolina contributed to this story.

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  1. billwvComment by billwv
    September 3, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

    Ozero’s aides are as ‘brainless’ as their principal; a blind man can see that the economy is in the dumps and will continue as long as a ‘do-nothing’ POTUS remains in the White House. The best thing for this country is to ‘fess up’ and know that 2008 was a bad fluke and NOW we will go about correcting a ‘bad mistake’.

    GO Romney / Ryan 2012

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  2. rustypatComment by rustypat
    September 4, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    Can you blame Romney for not detailing his plan @ convention? Obama would simply copy/counter. He’ll likely reveal pieces during the debates … where Obama won’t have the benefit of time to fabricate a spin. The American people can watch him squirm in the process without all his spin-meisters at his side.

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    • joelinpdxComment by joelinpdx
      September 4, 2012 @ 10:38 am

      Not to mention, Obozo won’t have the luxury of a TelePromTer during the debates. He’ll be speaking off the cuff and we all know what happens when Obozo speaks extemporaneously, “We didn’t build it,” “America is in fine shape” and he has visited all but two of America’s 57 states.

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  3. csbridgComment by csbridg
    September 4, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    I get so tired of the media’s bias in reporting. It’s so blatant it makes me sick. Compare the coverage of the two conventions. And what’s worse are the comments on the news stories. Some people are completely blind to it and will go so far as to defend it as “truth”, of course pulling the race card and throwing in FOX as some fairy tale network. I think most Obama supporters’ sole source of news is Yahoo which of course we all know as the epitomy of truth and intergity. I don’t know which is worse, the media that perpetrates the fraud or the herds out there that will believe anything they are told. The truth is available. Unfortunately the ones who need it most are too busy trying to push their version down the throats of the rest of us that they don’t have the time or inclination to look for it.

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  4. middlegroundComment by middleground
    September 4, 2012 @ 11:01 am

    “Four and a half million new jobs in the private sector”. What sectors, housing, banking, oil, coal or has government now been redefined as the private sector?

    I could see how the Democratic convention will be played out in this opening statement. Basically, Obama’s loyalists will claim he took over a failing economy and now everyone in the private sector has a job and “there is no unemployment, food stampers are decreasing and we are on the way to a new era of prosperity”. If you are a loyal Democrat, you will obviously believe this message of Hope and Prosperity and ignore all the evidence to the contrary, but no one can ignore this administration’s failed energy policy which was designed to drive up energy costs and continue dependence on imported oil and natural gas.

    Obama couldn’t block North Dakota’s Baaken production, which is on private land and being drilled by private companies, but he could use his EPA to block the pipeline designed to carry this production to Gulf Coast refineries while at the same time denying that is what he was doing. He could restrict GoM exploration and production with a deluge of regulations and permitting obstacles even as he claimed to be saving the environment. However, if the report that 600,000 gal of oil was the amount actually released is correct, this is about what was released by one of those many WWII oil tankers sunk in the same area in the opening days of WWII. So when you fill up your gas tank, pay your electric bill, heat your home or buy food remember it was the “Green Energy” policies of the current administration that has caused the prices to rise and this rise in prices was unnecessary.

    Clean energy (windmills, solar panels and corn alcohol) is expensive energy and industrial jobs require cheap energy.

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  5. librabobComment by librabob
    September 4, 2012 @ 11:39 am

    The fact that neither Obama or his people can answer that simple question “Are you better off today” with a simple YES or NO response speaks volumes. They can’t say yes because everyone knows better, if they say no.. but, everyone sees that as an excuse for failure. All they can do is divert and spin that question time and again.

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  6. KAHR50Comment by KAHR50
    September 4, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

    An enormous sand sculpture of obama – how telling of his ego.

    Maybe the medium used will be telling as to his longevity.

    Can anyone conjure up a windstorm this November?

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    Rating: 3.2/5 (6 votes cast)

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