Obama pressed on economy as Santorum seeks nomination

DESPITE a spate of discouraging economic reports, US President Barack Obama insisted yesterday he is not afraid of the country slipping into a double-dip recession. But at the same time he displayed impatience, saying the pace of the recovery has “got to accelerate”.

“Obviously, we’re experiencing some headwinds,” Obama said at a joint news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said it was unclear whether the latest jobless data, which showed a slowdown in job growth, was a one-month disappointment or part of a longer trend.

But Obama said his administration was taking a range of steps to boost the economy, and that the nation is bound for long- term economic growth.

“We are on the path of a recovery but it’s got to accelerate,” he said.

Taking note that economic turmoil has roiled both sides of the Atlantic, Obama added: “Recovery from that kind of body blow takes time. Our task is to not panic, not overreact.”

The economy has become the overriding issue as Obama heads into a 2012 re-election campaign, and a Washington Post-ABC News poll yesterday found that disapproval with Obama’s handling of the economy and the US budget deficit has reached a new high.

Mindful of that sentiment, Obama tried to project both confidence and empathy with those still feeling economic pain: “I’m not concerned about a double-dip recession. I am concerned about the fact that the recovery that we’re on is not producing jobs as quickly as I want it to happen.”

His comments come a day after former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a straight-talker popular with social conservatives, entered the 2012 Republican presidential sweepstakes, saying he wants to protect American freedoms “under threat” from Obama.

Santorum said Obama has worked to undermine Americans’ liberties and has imposed a national healthcare plan that saps individual choice. He accused Obama of spending billions of dollars that will add to the debt of future generations and said Obama lacks faith in the nation’s potential.

Mr Santorum also said Democratic spending has put the country on a dangerous path, and blamed Obama for an economy that collapsed in 2008, before he won the presidential election.

“If you look at the record of spending under this president, sure he came in with a problem... but he kept digging and digging,” he said.

Santorum entered the race four days after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney formally declared his candidacy.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann are strongly weighing bids.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and businessman Herman Cain are already in the race.

There also has been speculation that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who sought the nomination in 2008, is considering making another run.

Santorum, a lawyer by training, had been laying the groundwork for a presidential bid when he lost a bruising battle for re-election to the Senate in 2006.

His opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research makes him an appealing candidate for conservatives. But his abrasive style alienated voters in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, and they replaced him with Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat.

Santorum, 53, is married with seven children. He has been out of elective office since 2007 and lacks the robust fundraising or personal wealth of his likely rivals.

However, he is a tough campaigner, unafraid of fiery rhetoric.

“I believe that Americans now are not looking for someone they can believe in,” he said in a reference to Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, “Change You Can Believe In”.

“They’re looking for a president who believes in them.”

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