Surrogates for President Obama and Mitt Romney vied for the upper hand Sunday on the new jobless rate and what last week's debate means for the presidential race.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenate rivals gear up for debates WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Green group endorses in key Senate races MORE (R-N.H.) appeared on Fox News Sunday after the government's latest unemployment numbers and Wednesday's first presidential debate shook up the race for the White House.
The unemployment rate is "lower now than it was in the last full month" of President George W. Bush's presidency, O'Malley said on Fox. "Home foreclosures are at their lowest point in five years. We are making progress."
But Ayotte responded with a point Romney and his campaign have embraced since Friday — that without discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force, "the unemployment rate would really be 11 percent."
"I don't think there is really any cause to celebrate here," Ayotte said. "The politics that this president put into place actually made [the economy] worse."
Obama is almost sure to cite the new jobless rate when he faces Romney again on Oct. 16.
That townhall-style debate, O'Malley said, will provide the president with an opportunity to regain his footing.
"We have three more debates coming up," O'Malley said, noting that one event will pit Vice President Biden against Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan has 'no idea' who will win election Sunday shows preview: Both sides gear up for debate FULL SPEECH: Obama celebrates African American museum opening MORE (R-Wis.).
"We have a few more rounds to go in this fight," O'Malley said.
But Ayotte argued that the damage against Obama is done.
Thursday's debate "was a reset of this campaign," she said. "It was a chance to debunk the myths created by the Obama campaign. We saw the Mitt Romney I know … a proven, effective leader."