Friday, October 5, 2012

The Jobs Report and the Post-Debate Environment

I moderated a panel on the election last night with Chris Kofinis and Greg Strimple, two nationally prominent political consultants. Kofinis is a Democrat and Strimple is a Republican. One of the striking things about the discussion was how much they agreed on the debate and the post-debate environment. They both felt the debate was a very, very bad night for the President and that Romney was now back in the game after his campaign had been floundering for 60-90 days. I asked them both where the polls would be by early next week. Neither gave a specific number but Kofinis said the race would "tighten" and Strimple seemed to say Romney would get an even bigger boost and that Romney would be tied or even could lead.

This morning, Rasmussen released their daily tracking poll which includes one night of post-debate numbers. The topline numbers were unchanged but Rasmussen did note
The single night of polling conducted after the debate did show some improvement for Romney, but it remains to be seen whether that will continue or if it was merely statistical noise.
In the immediate aftermath of the debate, I said I thought Romney would pick up 1 to 2 points. I still think that's about right.

Then, today's jobs report came out. The economy added 114,000 jobs in September and the BLS revised upward the number of jobs the economy added in July and August. Perhaps most importantly from a political perspective, the unemployment rate dropped below 8% to 7.8% ... exactly where the unemployment rate was in January 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated. So what effect will this have on the race?

First, it helps Obama change the subject from his poor debate performance. The biggest problem with the debate performance was the echo chamber of the media talking about it. That discussion will now be more muted in the media or, at the very least, the media will be talking about the question of "does the jobs report change the subject?" That's what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy folks. Second, the jobs report strengthens the President's argument in the next debate in response to the most important question in the campaign: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Not only can the President say, "We inherited a disaster and we've now turned the corner." Much of the coverage of the last 30 days has focused on the President's rise in the polls being related to missteps by Governor Romney. What has been under-emphasized in the coverage has been the rise in consumer confidence. One good measure of this is Gallup's Economic Confidence Index.

Today's news is going to continue the trend we see there. And that is good for Obama.

Let me add this one last point: The next debate will be a town hall format and there WILL BE a question where a person stands up and says they are unemployed and want to know "what each of you will do specifically to help people like me." Count on that question. The President should answer the question with some specific things he's doing and planning to do to help. But he should then also pivot to say, "We inherited a mess created by the exact same policies that Governor Romney wants to double down on. And now we've tried it my way for four years and the result has been 5,000,000 private sector jobs added to the economy and we've brought unemployment back down to where it was when they left me with this mess. We shouldn't go back, we should keep going forward."

That's the job the President has for the next debate and this jobs report makes it easier to make that argument.


Jonathan Keller said...

The timing of this frankly could not have been better. And optically, that # is, well...booyeah. It's like having a 2.9 ERA, as opposed to a 3.1.

Larry Becker said...

Yeah. I agree. However, the next step is critical. Obama has to find a way to both crow about the good news but not seem like he thinks people aren't hurting. Specifically, in the town-hall format, some voter who is unemployed is going to ask him how a second Obama term will help him. Obama has to be able to say something like "there's been some good news recently but I know that doesn't help you at all. Here's what I'm going to do" and he'd better be specific. That's the key.