President Obama, at his second campaign stop Friday following a dismal June jobs report, dropped a line from his speech in which he cited the faint job growth as a "step in the right direction."
The president had taken heat for the comment from both the Mitt Romney campaign and Republican National Committee.
"Seriously?" Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email earlier that drew attention to the remark. She noted the 80,000 jobs recorded in June are far below the 130,000 to 150,000 it takes to keep pace with population growth.
The RNC also circulated a hastily produced Web video, splicing together a news report on the June employment picture with Obama's comment.
But at a stop Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh, his last on a two-day bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania, Obama dropped the line -- stressing instead the work that remains.
"We have been fighting back," Obama said. "But what we all understand is that we've got so much more to do. Too many of our friends and family members and neighbors are still out of work. Too many folks still are seeing their home property values under water."
The president is still smarting from saying after the previous monthly jobs report that the private sector's "doing fine." He's also taken criticism from Democrats for allegedly overselling the recovery. Democratic strategist James Carville's firm famously warned last month that struggling voters "are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction."
Yet at his first campaign stop Friday, in Poland, Ohio, that's what Obama said.
"You know, we learned this morning that our businesses created 84,000 new jobs last month, and that overall means that businesses have created 4.4 million jobs over the past 28 months, including 500,000 new manufacturing jobs. That's a step in the right direction," Obama said.
He went on to say he wasn't "satisfied with the growth" and wants to grow the economy "even faster."
But the comment quickly became GOP fodder, as did the June jobs report itself.
In the latest report, the Labor Department said employers added a meager 80,000 jobs in June, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent. The number of jobs added in June was lower than expected and rounded out a poor second quarter for 2012.
The average number of monthly jobs created in the first quarter of the year was 226,000 -- by contrast, that average in the second quarter was just 75,000.
With the economy typically polling as the top issue in the 2012 race, Obama is now under heavy pressure to demonstrate a turnaround sometime between July and October. A cascade of weak jobs reports between now and then would not bode well for his chances, though the president so far has kept the edge over Romney in many battleground state polls.
As far as Romney's concerned, the president has run out of time. Speaking from New Hampshire on Friday, the Republican presidential candidate said Obama does not "have a plan" for the economy, and he called the latest report a "kick in the gut."
"The president's policies have clearly not been successful in re-igniting this economy," Romney said. "It doesn't have to be this way."