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October 07. 2012 6:55PM

NH Sen. Ayotte tells 'Fox News Sunday': Debate was a ‘reset’ for Romney campaign

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign has been turned around since last week’s debate with President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Sunday.

“The debate was a reset of the campaign,” Ayotte, R-NH, said on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.

Ayotte went head to head with Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley on the program, arguing for Romney’s vision for the country. She pushed back against criticism leveled by O’Malley and other Obama surrogates that Romney’s plan will raise the deficit.

“The bottom line is this: (Obama’s) budget, tax increase on job creators, budget gimmicks ... brings us to $25 trillion in debt over 10 years,” she said. “In fact, this President has added more debt than any other President.”

O’Malley said it is untrue Obama has increased the deficit that much.

“No, it is not true. President (George W.) Bush left (Obama) with a $10 trillion deficit,” O’Malley said.

Ayotte has been a steady campaigner for Romney throughout the primaries and his general election campaign. She was mentioned as a possible vice presidential selection before U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, was tapped by the Romney campaign.

Ayotte argued Romney won the presidential debate thanks to his command of the facts and his vision for job creation.

“We saw the Mitt Romney I know,” she said, “which is someone who is a proven, effective leader with a vision to turn around the economy and a path forward to address the debt.”

O’Malley said there is still a lot of time left in the race, and then attacked Romney’s plans to cut taxes.

“And so, we have a few more rounds to go in this fight,” O’Malley said. “And now Gov. Romney is going to be challenged for the remaining 30 days to explain how it is he pays for $5 trillion in cuts and tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires without the rest of us suffering the cost.”

Ayotte said Romney will work to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats to craft a budget that reduces the burden on middle class Americans and boosts the economy to create jobs, while closing loopholes to bring in more revenue.

Wallace asked the pair about the most recent unemployment numbers, which show the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent — the first time it has fallen below 8 percent since Obama took office.

“We still have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction,” O’Malley said.

Ayotte said the recent rate drop does not mean the economy is getting better fast enough to help most Americans.

“(W)e still have the sad fact that we have the lowest labor participation rate since 1981,” she said. “If the number of people who were working or participating in the workforce were the same as when (Obama) came into office, the unemployment rate would really be 11 percent.”

dfisher@unionleader.com

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