Will the jobs report hurt Obama all that much?
posted at 11:41 am on June 1, 2012 by Karl
My initial reactions to today’s dismal jobs report mirror those of TNR’s Jonathan Cohn: (1) this is just plain bad for Americans; and (2) discussion of its political impact is inevitable. While people are reeling in the immediate wake of the bad news, just how bad is it for Pres. Obama’s reelection chances? Perhaps not as bad as our knee-jerk reactions would suggest.
Remember that America is increasingly politically polarized. As John Sides has noted (with charts): “Partisans are happy to vote for their party under most any circumstance and often rationalize their view of the economy accordingly.” This is confirmed in public opinion polls from Gallup and Pew, among otheres. Perceptions of a decaying economy will matter much more to pure independents.
But how much will the jobs report change perceptions? Undoubtedly, it will have some effect. But the report is (ostensibly) merely reflecting the reality already baked into the economic cake. Most people probably do not need the government to tell them the economy is limping (and would distrust any government telling them otherwise).
In addition, Team Obama’s mobilization campaign strategy is already geared to the bad news environment. Their campaign is built around appealing to a coalition based on minorities and upper-middle-class whites. The black vote is solidly Democrat and likely even more solidly Obama. The main concern there is turnout, which may be why the Obama administration is both coaching and inciting black churches regarding political activism. Team Obama is more likely to lose some traction among Hispanic voters, although it is doubtful that Mitt Romney can do as well with this demographic as amnesty-friendly Dubya did in the last decade. As for the yuppie white vote, unemployment is only four percent among those with college degrees (and presumably comparable for the white portion of the demo). Perception that the economy is bad outside their general social sphere is the factor here, but again questionable.
Today’s jobs report will hurt Obama at the margins — and in a close campaign, the margins are crucial. However, if reports like these do not cause a sea change in Obama’s prospects, do not be surprised.