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Friday's Numbers: Does Anybody Still Care?

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
August's uninspiring jobs numbers did nothing to destroy President Barack Obama's bounce coming out of the Democratic National Convention. With just more than a month to go until Election Day, the president leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a few points nationally, but the lead is even larger in some key swing states.

A few months ago, I expected this Friday to be a crucial day in the presidential race. After all, it would be the day when September's unemployment and new jobs numbers would be released, right in the heart of the contest.

But now, it's far from clear that those numbers will mean anything. The voters will soon tell us whether they care at all.

While jobs and the economy remain the top concern of most Americans, that issue has not cut the way it typically has in past campaigns. Despite months of economic news that has ranged from disappointing to depressing, President Barack Obama's prospects for re-election look surprisingly good now.

August's uninspiring job numbers - the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, and only 96,000 jobs were created - did nothing to destroy the president's bounce coming out of the Democratic National Convention.

Instead, voters seemed to ignore the economic news, apparently convinced that, yes, the jobs outlook is bad and probably will stay that way for months, but, no, Obama isn't to blame and at least deserves more time to fix the problem.

With just more than a month to go until Election Day, the president leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a few points nationally, but the lead is even larger in some key swing states.

While a majority (52 percent) of respondents in a Sept. 26-29 ABC News/Washington Post poll disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy, that number is down slightly from late August (56 percent) and down significantly from a year earlier (61 percent).

The president's overall job approval has also inched up, from 47 percent in late August to 50 percent in the most recent survey. Romney and Obama are now tied in that survey as to which one is more trusted to handle the economy - hardly the place where the Republican needs to be, or should be, considering the state of the economy.

The results of the Sept. 12-16 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll  weren't all that different from the ABC News/Washington Post survey, and a new (Sept. 26-30) NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed growing optimism about the economy.

A plurality of respondents (44 percent) said the economy will get better during the next year - up from 36 percent in August and 27 percent in July - and 57 percent of those surveyed said the economy is recovering, compared with 39 percent who said it is not.

All of this optimism comes in the face of decidedly mixed news.

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