The release of the U.S. jobs report has become a monthly ritual during the 2012 presidential campaign, an eagerly awaited opportunity to gauge just how dismal President Barack Obama’s chances are for re-election. But in an election that will likely come down to just a handful of battleground states — and even, perhaps, individual precincts — the jobs numbers in those swing states may be far more important in determining where Obama stands in the 2012 presidential race.
In this respect, the President’s outlook may be better than the dismal national economic numbers would suggest.
But while the overall economic situation in these states is better than the national picture, last month’s swing state jobs numbers are actually a mixed bag for Obama.
In June, the average unemployment rate in the top 10 swing states was 7.7 per cent, significantly lower than the 8.2 per cent national average. Here’s the breakdown for June, according to the Bureau of labour Statistics:
- New Hampshire: 5.1 per cent unemployment
- Iowa: 5.2 per cent unemployment
- Virginia: 5.7 per cent unemployment
- Ohio: 7.2 per cent unemployment
- Pennsylvania: 7.5 per cent unemployment
- Colorado: 8.2 per cent unemployment
- Michigan: 8.6 per cent unemployment
- Florida: 8.6 per cent unemployment
- North Carolina: 9.4 per cent unemployment
- Nevada: 11.6 per cent unemployment
Month-to-month, the unemployment rate rose in six out of the 10 states, climbing one-tenth of a percentage point in Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Virginia, according to a BLS report released Friday. Joblessness remained stagnant — and well-above the national average — in Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada. Of the 10 swing states, only Ohio saw a drop in unemployment, from 7.3 per cent in May to 7.2 per cent in June.
Year-to-year, however, the numbers are much better for Obama, with five swing states — Ohio, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada — posting significant drops in unemployment from June 2011.
And there is another factor working in Obama’s favour. Seven out of the 10 battleground states have Republican governors who, like the President, are touting their state’s economic resurgence.
ABC News flags this statement from Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, the chair of the Republican Governors Association and one of Romney’s most visible supporters:
“Over the past 12 months, Republican governors have been making the tough choices necessary to provide certainty to job creators. Republican governors have closed massive budget deficits while holding the line on taxes, reined in unsustainable entitlements and seen their credit outlooks upgraded. As a result, businesses in Republican-led states have been able to overcome strong national economic headwinds to add jobs and drive down unemployment.”
Needless to say, McDonnell’s message sets up an awkward conflict for the Romney campaign. Although Republican governors should be the candidate’s most effective surrogates, they are unlikely to want to put their party’s presidential nominee before their own political interests — even if that makes them more effective mouthpieces for the other side.
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