President Obama acknowledged Friday evening that the nation's economy isn't yet where it needs to be, but said his Republican opponent in the upcoming election would move the country in the wrong direction.
"As proud as we are of the work we’ve gotten done, we’ve still got miles to go on this journey,” Obama said in a fundraising speech at the Chicago Cultural Center after an introduction by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
A Department of Labor report released hours before the president's visit showed the economy had created a dismal 69,000 jobs in May, less than half of what analysts expected. It cited the current European debt crisis as a major reason for the economic setback.
Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney pounced on the news, calling it a "harsh indictment" of Obama's stewardship of the economy. He accused the president of being overly focused on "legislative achievements" instead of putting Americans back to work.
Obama didn't let the jab go unnoticed.
"God bless him, but the vision that he has for this country, and the vision that Republicans in Congrss have for this country, is exactly the vision that got us into this mess in the first place. Except, as Bill Clinton said a few weeks ago, it's on steroids this time."
Obama said Romney's campaign was simply "regurgitating" old ideas.
"They want to strip away regulations that we put in place to ensure, for example, we don’t have the same financial crisis on wall street that we just went through," he told the crowd.
He said GOP policies call for more cuts to education, transportation, and the social safety net.
"We've seen this philosophy before. The good thing is, we've come to our senses," he said.
The president went into a campaign riff about how bad the economy was when he inherited the White House before pivoting to congratulate his administration on more than two years of economic growth. More than four million jobs have been created since he took office, he said. More than 800,000 of which have bee created in 2012 alone.
Still, Friday's report seriously dampens Obama's message, though the May numbers may end up doing more damage to Obama's short-term political standing than to the economy long-term.
The United States has experienced periods of jobs slowdown for the past three years, only to bounce back. Last year, from May to August, job growth averaged 80,000 a month and from June through September of 2010, the average was 76,000.
The event was one of three fundraisers expected to bring millions to the president's re-election campaign. Tickets started at $2,500, campaign officials said. Two other events were held at the private residences of major Democratic donors.
But unlike Obama's visit two weeks ago during the NATO Summit, when he stayed at a downtown hotel, he said he was looking forward to paying a visit to his Hyde Park home and would "putter" around in the yard.
"I am sleeping in my own bed tonight," he said.