Green Room

Will the jobs report hurt Obama all that much?

posted at 11:41 am on June 1, 2012 by

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.

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You just answered your own question. It will have an effect on the truly undecided voters. Everybody knows that’s where the victory will be won. I don’t see the point of endless hand-wringing that serves no purpose.

cicerone on June 1, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Karl, I don’t think it’s so much the report per se as the reality the report reflects that has the potential to hurt Obama. The economy is still number 1 on the American voter’s list of concerns, and the likelihood that job offers will slow will directly impact those attempting to feed their families.

Howard Portnoy on June 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Don’t underestimate the American people. Blacks will stay home, Obama will lose Hispanics and the college white vote is not uniform and certainly not stupid.

breffnian on June 1, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Judging from the weakness of the comments of the very few trolls on this site, the left is demoralized.

I don’t know how Axelrod spins this crap sandwich. He can try, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

NoDonkey on June 1, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Obama still has time to recover, because the current numbers will not be subject to relentless repetition by the vast majority of the media, in an effort to drum a negative attitude into the heads of the swing voters.

That doesn’t mean the Labor Department can come out on Nov. 3 and announce a million, billion, zillion jobs were created in October (revisions to be made in December), and it will assure Obama’s re-election on Nov. 6. But it does mean if the economy starts picking up in the August and September reports, the massive publicity by the same big media outlets in the 1-2 months before the election can sway the moderates back to the president’s side. So today’s report has a little meaning, if it’s seen as part of a trend that continues into the early fall, but it’s not a game-ending for Team Obama, because those only paying casual attention to the election on June 1 can still be swayed back if there’s better news to report by October 1.

jon1979 on June 1, 2012 at 12:27 PM

So, would a good jobs report only help at the margins? That just seems counterintuitive. And if that’s counterintuitive, why isn’t it counterintuitive to think that this sort of report doesn’t hurt that much or only hurts at the margins?

“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.

But what are we talking about here? At most 40%, maybe even as low as 30-35% of the electorate? And does it matter whether the Pew and Gallup polls are looking at adults or registered voters or likely voters? Does it matter whether reports like this dampen enthusiasm? That the perceptions of the economy are often formed in the summer?

We are still of course 150+ days out — but it’s hard to imagine that Plouffe and Axelrod and Gibbs count this as a marginal annoyance…else why worry about high school pranks and Bain and dogs and stay at home moms?

EastofEden on June 1, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Corporate CEOs a deliberately holding down the employment numbers to get their millionaire buddy Mitt Romney in the Oval Office.

H/T: G Dog at Minnesota.CBSLocal

WeekendAtBernankes on June 1, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Nov 6, 2012 is going to look like 1980 all over again. Don’t believe the polls, back in ’80 they had Carter up by 6%, same is true today. They’ll try to act like bho is up by x% when he’ll be losing by a landslide. The American people will get rid of bho and Holder, the 2 most corrupt political cronies, in the history of the U.S.

I can see Nov.6, from my window.

WV. Paul on June 1, 2012 at 2:16 PM

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Allahpundit on June 1, 2012 at 10:28 PM

The jobs report takes away another Obama campaign tool. He cannot claim the jobs picture is improving.

Dennis D on June 1, 2012 at 8:12 PM

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