WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Advisers to President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney squared off on Sunday over job creation in a debate which, following Friday's weak jobs report, promises to be a deciding factor in the November vote.
Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Romney, citing Obama's healthcare reform law and a decision to put a major oil pipeline on hold, said on "Fox News Sunday" that Obama's policies have put a damper on job creation.
"The problem is this administration and this president's policies are hostile to job creators," Gillespie said.
He pointed to the president's decision to put an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas on hold to study its environmental impact. "The Keystone pipeline decision ... would have had an immediate impact on job creation," Gillespie said.
Friday's news that the unemployment rate had notched up to 8.2 percent in May, from 8.1 percent in April, and that job creation, at 69,000 in May, was weaker than expected was the result of weak presidential leadership, Gillespie said.
Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod noted in an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" that "Governor Romney offers himself as a job creator, a kind of economic oracle and he's saying the same exact thing as he said 10 years ago when he ran for governor of Massachusetts."
"What happened?," Axelrod asked. "Massachusetts plunged to 47th in job creation. They lost manufacturing jobs at twice the rate of the country and created jobs at one-fifth the rate of the rest of the country.
"It wasn't the record of a job creator. He had the wrong economic philosophy, and he failed," Axelrod said.
Gillespie cited the need for "entitlement reform" - a reference to the massive U.S. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs - as a pressing current need. He also criticized Obama for failing to back measures to stop the expiration of tax breaks set for the end of this year from hitting small business owners.
Repealing healthcare industry reforms enacted under Obama, which Republicans derisively call "Obamacare," should also be a priority, Gillespie said on the Fox News program.
"The mandate in the president's healthcare bill alone was estimated to cost 850,000 jobs in our economy by the Congressional Budget Office," Gillespie said.
Excessive government regulation and banking industry oversight under the Democratic Dodd-Frank Act are also a drag on corporate growth and job creation, Gillespie said.
Reporting By Todd Eastham; Editing by Eric Beech