Nightly News   |  October 22, 2011

Obama shifts conversation back to jobs

After the Iraq announcement, the president quickly turned back to what he calls the country's "greatest challenge" — rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: For his part, President Obama quickly shifted the conversation today to what

he called the greatest challenge: rebuilding the economy and creating jobs here at home. And the Republicans weighed in, as well, today on the president's policies, both foreign and domestic. NBC 's Kristen Welker is at the White House for us tonight. Kristen , good evening.

KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Good evening, Lester . Well, President Obama has been flanked by a struggling economy. Now many are saying that the fall of Gadhafi and the end of US military involvement in Iraq are political victories. President Obama hailed this week's foreign policy developments in his weekly Web address .

President BARACK OBAMA: This week we have two powerful reminders of how we've renewed American leadership in the world.

WELKER: But the Republican candidates are not letting him take a victory lap. In New Hampshire today, Mitt Romney blasted the administration's decision to withdraw all troops instead of leaving a few thousand in country to aid the transition process.

Former Governor MITT ROMNEY: And they either failed to do it by virtue of ineptitude or they decided that it wasn't that important politically or otherwise.

WELKER: Political analysts say it's criticism that won't hold much weight.

Mr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Political Analyst): While the foreign policy success will be welcomed and is welcomed by most Americans, the Republicans are going to focus on the one issue that people are really interested in, and that's the domestic economy.

WELKER: The president also acknowledged it's his biggest challenge.

Pres. OBAMA: Now the nation we need to build is our own.

WELKER: GOP candidates were out in full force in Iowa today, trying to convince voters they can do a better job. Michele Bachmann is trying to revive her candidacy after five New Hampshire staffers reportedly quit. In a radio interview, Bachmann shot down the report.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN: There's no truth to that story, so this is a rumor.

WELKER: And with his poll numbers dropping, Rick Perry is also in reset mode. On a hunting trip, he took aim at top rival Mitt Romney .

Governor RICK PERRY: For Governor Romney to be making strong statements about immigration when it's been his actions that have caused part of this problem.

WELKER: With the caucuses just 11 weeks away, analysts say the unsettled GOP field could soon become a lot clearer.

Mr. ROTHENBERG: For the past six months, the Republican voters have been looking at these candidates, who do they like, who excites them, who energizes them. Now they're going to decide, 'Who do -- whom am I -- who do I -- who do I really want to marry? Who I do want to go to a presidential race with?'

WELKER: Next week, President Obama turns back to his domestic agenda. He'll head to the West Coast to sell his jobs plan. He'll also attend several fundraisers. Analysts say he is also in campaign mode. Lester :

HOLT: Kristen , thank you.