The final jobs report is good news for Obama
November 2, 2012By Dick Polman
It's a very sad day for the Romney partisans who have been rooting so hard for misery, who have fervently hoped that the government's final pre-election jobs report would reverse the nation's slow but steady economic recovery. They needed a massive explosion, something that would erase President Obama's small but durable polling lead in most of the swing states. Instead, they got a dud.
The numbers released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics aren't particularly stellar - nothing new there - but they continue to confirm our upward trajectory. The economy added 171,000 jobs during October (most economists had anticipated 125,000); plus, the BLS revised the August and September numbers - upwards. Turns out, 192,000 jobs were created in August, not the initial estimate of 142,000. And September jobs have upticked to 148,000, frm the initial 114,000. Meanwhile, the latest jobless rate is 7.9 percent. That's one-tenth of a percent higher than in September, but, as business experts point out, that's because more people have re-entered the labor force - and when more people feel encouraged to look for work, that too is good news.
Good news for the economy, that is. And good news for Obama. He's not likely to get a huge electoral boost from those numbers, nor would he have expected to. Most importantly, the final jobs report does him no harm.
The new numbers will probably buttress the widespread belief (held by roughly half the electorate, anyway) that things are getting better. That's one big reason why Obama has edged ahead in most swing states, and why Romney has been unable to generate an eleventh-hour surge (as Ronald Reagan was able to do in 1980). As economists and political scientists have pointed out for a long time, voters are likely to re-hire an incumbent (albeit narrowly) as long as they perceive that a damaged economy is on the mend.
And clearly they do. Gallup says that, for the first time since 2007, a plurality of Americans now believe that they're better off financially than they were a year earlier. And according to the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index, consumer confidence in October was the highest it has been in the last fve years. And because personal finances are in better shape, the credit card deliquency rate has reportedly dropped to its lowest level in two decades.
Granted, these improvements (in the housing market as well) continue to be modest. But they buttress the president's closing argument on the stump. He's basically telling voters to stay the course, to stick with him because he will sustain the slow but steady growth. Ironically, it's a status quo argument from the one-time candidate of change, but that's the nature of incumbency.
And as for Romney, he needed those jobs numbers to plunge sharply downward. That was his best hope for radically altering the fundamentals of this race. He might still win, of course, but at a time when the arrows appear to point upward, his is clearly the tougher sell.
So forget the slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." The more precise slogan is, "It's the trajectory, stupid."
Meanwhile, Romney has decided to do a toe touch in Pennsylvania on the final Sunday. Just as John McCain did four years ago. Romney is also dispatching Paul Ryan to Pennsylvania. Just as McCain dispatched Sarah Palin to Pennsylvania.
Memo to Mitt: Knock yourself out.
New definition of a liberal: A tea-party conservative who pleads for FEMA aid after his beach house has been blown away.
Imagine if we had to explain our nutty campaign to visiting aliens. I tried, in my Friday newspaper column.
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