Obama, Romney Hold High Noon Duel Over Jobs

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images | Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Newscom

President Obama and Mitt Romney held a high noon showdown on the economy today, with both men delivering live, televised statements on jobs, taxes and economic growth at the exact same time.

As Romney spoke outside a small business in Las Vegas, Obama surrounded himself with a group of middle-class Americans in Washington to praise the July jobs report and continue his push to put Romney on the defensive on taxes.

"This morning we learned that our businesses created 172,000 new jobs in the month of July. That means that we've now created 4.5 million over the last 29 months and 1.1 million new jobs so far this year," Obama said. "Those are our neighbors and family members finding work and the security that comes with work."

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"We knew when I started this job that this was going to take some time," he added. "But we also knew that if we were persistent and kept at it, kept working, that we'd gradually get to where we need to be."

Romney assailed the latest report and a national unemployment rate that ticked up last month as a "hammer blow to the struggling middle-class families of America."

"These numbers are not just statistics. These are real people, really suffering, having hard times, 23 million Americans out of work or stopped looking for work or way under-employed," Romney said. "The official unemployment number, 8.3 percent. That's the longest period of time - 42 months - the longest period of time we've had unemployment above 8 percent in American history, since this has been recorded."

"This is an extraordinary record of failure," he said of Obama.

Both men also sparred over taxes, framing the ongoing debate over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts and for whom as a central issue for accelerating economic growth.

The president, who did not mention Romney by name, took direct aim at his rival's tax plan, calling it "upside-down economics."

"They want to give millionaires and billionaires and folks like me tax cuts that we don't need and that the country can't afford even if middle-class families have to pick up the tab for it," Obama said.

"I just think we've got our priorities skewed if the notion is that we give tax breaks to the folks that don't need them and to help pay for that tax folks who are already struggling to get by. That's not how you grow an economy," he added.

Romney vigorously defended his plan to slash rates on corporations and upper-income earners, saying hiking rates as Obama proposes would kill jobs.

"I will not raise taxes on the American people," Romney told reporters. "I will not raise taxes on middle income Americans, and the president's assertion and his ad's assertion to the contrary are simply false. I want to bring down rates, make the code simpler," he said.

Romney cited studies by the National Foundation of Independent Businesses and Rice University to claim his tax plan would create "millions" of jobs, while Obama's would encourage small businesses to shed workers from their payrolls.