by Ray Fleming

There were two big breaks in the US presidential election yesterday. At a news conference a reporter asked Mitt Romney what he would have said in Wednesday's TV debate if President Obama had faced him with his taped opinion that 47 per cent of the American people were not his concern because they were dependent on the State and did not pay taxes He replied: “What I said was completely wrong. I care about 100 per cent of the American people” -- and went on to explain that when you make thousands of campaign speeches you're going to say something that doesn't sound right. Why then, when the 47 per cent remark was first heard in public, did Mr Romney and his team defend his words and the logic behind them so strongly despite widespread criticism?

President Obama badly needed a lift after the almost universal opinion that Romney had got the better of him in the TV debate. Help came yesterday from the US September employment figures which showed the percentage of unemployed had dropped below eight per cent for the first time since he took office almost four years ago. Part of American presidential election lore is that no incumbent president can win with unemployment running above eight per cent. It's touch and go whether the October figures will be released just before or just after polling day on 6 November.