Seldom are differences between the candidates so stark as on jobs and the economy. President Barack Obama sees a glass half full and rising, Republican rival Mitt Romney describes one that's half-empty and falling.
It's not surprising. Sustained weakness in the economy remains Obama's biggest vulnerability heading into fall's presidential election. Both campaigns know it. And it colors how they spin economic data.
Obama and Romney clashed sharply Friday over new unemployment numbers.
Obama cheered the Labor Department's report that 163,000 jobs were created in July after three months of weak job growth. He portrayed it evidence the economy continues to improve, if unevenly.
"That means that we've now created 4.5 million new jobs over the last 29 months and 1.1 million new jobs so far this year," Obama said, while acknowledging "too many folks out there that are looking for work." He pitched his plan to extend tax breaks for all but the wealthy.
Romney focused on the overall increase in the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June, calling it "another hammer blow to the struggling middle class families in America," and evidence of Obama's "extraordinary record of failure."
Economists generally welcomed the report as better than expected. And while the increase was barely enough to match working-age population growth, it was seen as another sign the economy wasn't slipping back into recession.
Wall Street liked it, too. Stocks soared.
Part of the disparity between the unemployment rate and monthly job creation figures is because the first comes from a Labor Department survey of households while the second from a survey of businesses. The two numbers don't always move in tandem.
Obama spent the day at the White House. Romney spoke from North Las Vegas during a campaign swing to Nevada.
Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum. For more AP political coverage, look for the 2012 Presidential Race in AP Mobile's Big Stories section. Also follow https://twitter.com/APCampaign and AP journalists covering the campaign: https://twitter.com/AP/ap-campaign-2012