Mitt Romney surrogates arrive in Portsmouth before President Obama’s visit to city

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.—The chess game has begun.

Before President Obama’s arrival here Friday, two of Mitt Romney’s top surrogates were in downtown Portsmouth for a pre-emptive event.

At John’s Barber Shop on Daniel Street, Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire’s Republican US senator, and Kerry Healey, lieutenant governor under Romney in Massachusetts, critiqued the president’s address to the Democratic convention Thursday night and jumped on Friday’s weak jobs report.

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Ayotte gave reporters her takeaway from Obama’s case for his reelection: “Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

“He’s asked for more time, and the country doesn’t have time,” Ayotte said.

Healey said the report of 96,000 net new jobs created in August was “a big disappontment.” The drop in the unemployment rate by two-tenths of a point to 8.1 percent means that more people have stopped looking for work and marks 43 consecutive months of a rate above 8 percent.

After Portsmouth, the duo, travelling in a blue-and-white Romney-Ryan bus, was scheduled to make stops in Rochester, the Massachusetts border town of Atkinson, and Hollis before joining the Republican nominee Friday evening at an event in Nashua, Tom Schultz, the Romney campaign’s New Hampshire spokesman, said.