By Carol Cain CBS62

Jobs, jobs and jobs are the top issues that seem to matter most in this historic race for the White House which is why we are launching the CBS Local Presidential Forum today by asking President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney what each would do if successful in his bid to nudge the economy and inspire jobs.

During the next 10 days, to help voters learn more about the two men vying to become the 45th president of the United States, we will pose 10 questions on topics that matter to Americans in our exclusive CBS Forum. There could also be some retorts to those answers too.

Among issues we will tackle: ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare, appealing to women voters, confronting the deficit, future of education, U.S. energy independence, urban city agenda, national defense spending, U.S. Supreme Court appointments, and sharing with Americans what the other candidate has said about him that irks him the most.

While many voters have made up their minds up, a small but influential group representing anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of “undecided” or “swing voters” are lurking. They ultimately could be ones who determine the outcome.

Which makes the CBS Local Presidential Forum, the two remaining televised presidential debates (held Oct. 16 and Oct 22 when CBS “Face The Nation’s” Bob Schieffer moderates) and campaign appearances through the Nov. 6 election critical.

This election, which polls show as tightening, is gaining interest as evidenced by last week’s televised debate in Denver which focused on the economy and drew a whopping 67 million viewers (15 million more than the first debate four years).

The two men emerged with more to say about the economy and jobs as they answer in today’s inaugural forum question.

See Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s answers to today’s question on the CBS Local Presidential Forum.

While many issues resonate, none moreso than the economy. It’s not a new mantra on the road to the White House.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” was uttered two decades ago by Democratic strategist James Carville of the 1992 presidential race in describing how Gov. Bill Clinton won over incumbent Pres. George H.W. Bush.

That phrase could be used to talk up today’s race as Obama tries to win a second term over GOP challenger Romney. “I think the main question for the candidates is how to create a strategy of sustained high economic growth over the long haul,” said former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush. “Conversely, how do we fix our structural problems so that economic growth and job creation can occur. Everything else pales by comparison,” Bush added.

The economy is in better shape than four years ago but is still struggling. On Friday, the U.S. unemployment rate was announced and dropped to a near four-year low of 7.8 percent in September, its lowest point since January 2009, which could give Team Obama a boost.

Team Romney said that 7.8 percent unemployment rate was nothing to be applauded.

Regardless of the candidate or party, all agree it will be the economy that will calibrate this election.

“In 2012, this race is all about the economy and jobs,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director of Pew Research for the People & the Press which has surveyed voters for years.

“But leadership is also key,” Doherty said. “That’s why the debates will be critically important. Who is viewed as the leader able to get things back on track will be critical.”

Come back tomorrow when President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney answer:

Q: In all of the conversation about big versus small government, describe your view on the role of the federal government.

(Carol Cain is an Emmy winning journalist who has covered politics and business over 20 years. She is Senior Producer/Host of CBS62’s “Michigan Matters” and writes a column on politics and business for Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at


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