The White House said on Thursday that President Barack Obama was barely paying attention to the Republican race to unseat him in 2012, as a possible foe Mitt Romney threw his hat into the ring.
But it did mount a detailed defense of Obama's economic record, as Romney warned that the Democrat carried into office in 2008 amid souring hopes for change, he had "failed America" and made the recession longer and worse.
Asked whether Obama was beginning to eye the accelerating 2012 race, as aides built his own campaign machinery, White House spokesman Jay Carney suggested it was not yet time for election talk.
"When we're traveling and (we) spend a lot of time talking with him about different subjects, he is not focused on that," Carney said.
With Obama's 2012 prospects under new scrutiny following a set of disheartening economic data this week, Carney said the president was squarely focused on cutting high unemployment and the economy.
"There is no issue that matters more to this president than the economic health of this country and the job security and job creation in this country," Carney said.
"When this president took office, we were in the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
"The president inherited the largest deficit in the history of the country from an administration that had, when it came into power eight years previous, inherited budget surpluses from a Democratic president," Carney said.