President Barack Obama opens his 2012 re-election bid against a backdrop of slower U.S. job growth that injects more uncertainty into a race against Republican Mitt Romney in which economic concerns will be paramount.

Obama plans back-to-back rallies today in Ohio and Virginia, two swing states that will be key to winning the White House in November. He will address supporters a day after the Labor Department reported U.S. employers added fewer workers than forecast in April. While the jobless rate fell to 8.1 percent, it was largely because people left the labor force.

“The results are sort of mixed and that’s the problem if you’re an incumbent,” said Robert Blendon, a professor of political analysis at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “You don’t like people setting these expectations because if things are mildly better, they’re actually looking worse.”

Obama won Ohio and Virginia in 2008, and he’s making his fourth visit of the year to each state today. Obama’s 2008 victory in Virginia, with 52.6 percent of the vote, was the first by a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The state has 13 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.

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