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Romney turns focus to economy

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WASHINGTON -- Republican Mitt Romney accused U.S. President Barack Obama of "failing American workers" by ignoring Chinese trade violations, and seized on new Federal Reserve attempts to boost the economy as proof the administration's policies are not working.

The Republican candidate shifted his focus back to more comfortable ground Thursday -- the struggling U.S. economy -- after a one-day campaign detour into a foreign-policy thicket that left him bruised and Obama largely unscathed.

Romney made little mention during the day of the events in Egypt and Libya that he had cited Tuesday as evidence of national security weakness on the president's part. Democrats have derided Romney's remarks as inaccurate and evidence that the Republican nominee is an unsteady international leader. Even some Republicans said Romney spoke too hastily, although others defended him.

The economy has long been Romney's strongest area, with polls suggesting a majority of voters consider the multi-millionaire businessman better qualified than Obama to put the U.S. back on the road to prosperity. With the unemployment rate hovering stubbornly above eight per cent, the economy is also the No. 1 issue for voters.

The debate over the Middle East turmoil intruded, though, when a heckler at Romney's rally yelled out, "Why are you politicizing Libya?" The crowd responded with chants of "U-S-A" and supporters tried to place a Romney placard in front of the heckler's face.

"We're going to crack down on China," the former Massachusetts governor vowed in an appearance in the Virginia suburbs around Washington, D.C. He spoke after his campaign unveiled a television commercial claiming China has outpaced the United States in new manufacturing jobs since the president took office. "Seven times Obama could have stopped China's cheating. Seven times he refused," it says.

The president pushed back.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters all the actions the administration has initiated at the World Trade Organization to rein in China have been successful. The president's campaign said Obama has brought as many cases challenging China trade policies in 31/2 years as former U.S. President George W. Bush did in eight.

Obama vowed to do "whatever is necessary" to protect Americans serving abroad.

Halfway around the world, anti-American protests spread to Yemen.

Obama said the U.S. would not consider Egypt an ally, "but we don't consider them an enemy."

The government in Cairo receives roughly $1.5 billion in U.S. aid annually, most of it for the military.

The president said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo Egypt is a "new government that is trying to find its way." And he warned that if the Egyptian government takes actions showing "they're not taking responsibility," then it would "be a real big problem."

The candidates spoke with less than eight weeks remaining in a close campaign and most polls rate Obama a shaky favourite.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2012 A20

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