(CNN) - The leaders of the Republican and Democratic Party committees on Monday made their battle lines clear in CNN interviews over whether the economy and Americans are now better off than they were when President Barack Obama took office.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, went as far as suggesting on CNN's "The Situation Room" that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not care about those who are struggling economically, but rather about his own electoral prospects.
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"I thought it was pretty disingenuous of Mitt Romney the other night to say that he was rooting for President Obama to succeed," she charged. "That was one of the more disingenuous statements I heard."
In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney said "I wish President Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed."
But, Romney continued, Obama has been a disappointment. And over the weekend after his speech, the question of whether Americans are better off or not, and the numbers behind both arguments, came into focus, as top Democrats shied from direct answers to the question on the Sunday talk shows. It continued to be litigated on Monday, as candidates and surrogates on both sides of the aisle hit the campaign trail.
Both Wasserman-Schultz and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, acknowledged that times were tough when Obama came into office, but Priebus maintained that growth in jobs and the stock market since that time have left many behind.
"We can't give Barack Obama a pass and say the economy wasn't in good shape, and therefore it's an excuse to make everything worse," Priebus said. "Either his answer now is I didn't appreciate how bad it was and I didn't understand what I was doing, or I failed."
Presented with improvements in the Dow Jones Industrial stock average, which includes key components of many Americans' investment and retirement plans, Priebus argued that "too many Americans don't have the luxury to worry about the status of the 401(k). The problem in America is people aren't working."
The latest Labor Department jobs report - from July - showed Obama was 316,000 jobs away from breaking even with the start of his presidency, and accounting for the 4.316 million jobs lost since he took office. But the unemployment rate of 8.3% in the report, released in early August, was above the 7.8% when Obama took office.
Wasserman Schultz, meanwhile, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in a separate interview that Obama took office while the economy was trending downward, and under his leadership, the trend is pointing upward.
"President Obama inherited the largest set of problems at once of any president, really, since FDR," she said, citing Franklin Delano Roosevelt who took office several years into the Great Depression.
Romney and his running mate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, would "ask the middle class to pay for more budget busting tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires," she charged.
On the campaign trail in Michigan, Vice President Joe Biden had a forceful answer to the question of whether the economy is in better shape than when he was inaugurated.
"You want to know whether we're better off?" he asked supporters in Michigan on Monday. "I've got a little bumper sticker for you. Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!"
And Obama, campaigning in Ohio, said that at the GOP convention Romney offered "just a retread of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years."
Romney spent the day off of the campaign trail, but Ryan picked up the line of attack at an event in North Carolina, nearly 200 miles from where the Democratic National Convention will officially nominate Obama as the party's candidate this week.
"The president can say a lot of things, and he will," Ryan said of Obama. "But he can't tell you that you're better off.
He continued, "Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now."
– CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report