ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I'm Ari Shapiro, traveling with the Romney campaign. The Republican presidential nominee had been chugging along on momentum from Wednesday's debate performance when this morning's unemployment numbers changed the story. At a rally near Virginia's border with Tennessee, that did not faze voters like Nancy Lemieux(ph). She says the statistics are bogus.
NANCY LEMIEUX: Because they twist the numbers to suit the politicians and right now, it's Obama's cronies. So I don't believe anything I hear on TV.
SHAPIRO: Now, the Bureau of Labor statistics is insulated from the White House. They say there's no way that any politician could manipulate the numbers.
LEMIEUX: There's no one who is immune to being bent by Obama and the Democrats.
SHAPIRO: Several voters at the rally offered that same conspiracy theory. It picked up a lot of steam on social media today, even though it's false. Romney took the stage and did not mention the report until 10 minutes into his stump speech. Then, he did not suggest that the unemployment rate is manipulated.
MITT ROMNEY: The reason it's come down this year is primarily due to the fact that more and more people have just stopped looking for work.
SHAPIRO: That's been true at times, but in September, labor participation in the workforce was actually up. Romney said if you include people who are underemployed or who have give up looking for a job, 23 million people are suffering in this economy.
ROMNEY: So it looks like unemployment's getting better, but the truth is, if the same share of people were participating in the workforce today as on the day the president got elected, why, the unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.
SHAPIRO: At nearly every rally for the last year, Romney has cited the number of months that unemployment stayed above 8 percent. He used that number like a bludgeon to whack President Obama. Now that unemployment is under 8 percent, that line is out of his campaign speech, but unemployment is still very much a part of his arsenal. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Addington, Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.