CLEVELAND — Unemployment rates fell last month in nearly all of the battleground states that will determine the presidential winner, giving President Barack Obama fresh fodder to argue that voters should stick with him in an election focused squarely on the economy.
In Ohio, perhaps the most crucial battleground state for both Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, the unemployment rate ticked down last month to 7 percent from 7.2 percent, below the national average of 7.8 percent.
Obama's team is banking on the president getting credit for improvements in Ohio's economy, particularly for the bailout of the auto industry, which has deep roots in the Midwestern swing state. But Romney has opportunities to run on the economy in Ohio, too. The state actually lost nearly 13,000 jobs in September and the drop in the unemployment rate was probably due in part to people dropping out of the job market.
The president didn't mention the state jobless numbers during a campaign stop Friday in Virginia, one of two battleground states where the rate didn't drop. It held steady at the relatively low level of 5.9 percent.
Spirited on other topics, Obama quipped in a raucous rally at George Mason University that a case of Romnesia was preventing his opponent from remembering his own stances on health care, energy and a slate of policies.
Romney was headlining a rally in Florida on Friday evening after spending much of the day in New York meeting with advisers.
The candidates were preparing this weekend for Monday's third and final debate in Boca Raton, Fla.
Meanwhile, fresh questions arose over what the White House knew when about the deadly attack on Americans in Libya.
Romney and running mate Paul Ryan have criticized the administration for saying at first that the attack was a spontaneous mob reaction to an anti-Muslim video on YouTube when they now acknowledge it was a terrorist attack. U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the CIA station chief in Libya reported to Washington within 24 hours of the attack to say there was evidence it was carried out by militants, although it's unclear who received that information right away.