What Obama Can’t Control
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
President Obama cannot create jobs by himself and his re-election campaign is likely to be very tight with the unemployment numbers at the end of the summer. As is evident from the employment numbers released today, the United States has hardly moved into a full recovery mode. While private sector job growth is climbing slowly, public sector jobs have declined. While the unemployment rate dropped from 8.2% to 8.1% these number do not instill much confidence in a public which already has too large a percentage of people who are no longer even looking for work. For the Obama campaign the need to show consistent positive movement is growing more and more critical, and perhaps unlikely.
The rhythm of the fall campaign always follows the same beat. Romney needs to select a non-Palin running mate or else he will alienate, as did McCain, the large centrist voters. Then it will come down to the candidates’ two acceptance speeches and the first face-to-face debate (most of the public only focuses on the first one except if there are major guffaws). These are all events that the candidates can control.
At the same time both Obama and Romney know, for many even the debates will not have much influence as much of their debating was already done at the beach and poolside in August. Most voters have made their presidential choice before the end of the summer.
Baring a major foreign policy event (which Romney cannot control) the election contest will be decided by the unemployment numbers and the economic trend that exists by Labor Day (something the President can do little at this point to affect). It will be the trend not on November 1 but on Labor Day. Last minute numbers—even a gush of positive ones– do not turn around many voters, 90% of whom have already made up their mind. For the White House, that was why the figures released today are politically so troubling.
From the Romney side these numbers make his appeal to the Independents so much easier. He can let the figures speak for themselves and urge the public to try another brand as the current one is not working.
On the other hand, it’s only May and in spring….