Does Weak Jobs Report Hurt Obama Re-Election Bid?

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The March jobs report delivered a downside surprise with the economy adding only 120,000 new payrolls, while the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.2%. Politicians on both sides of the aisle will pounce on these numbers with the Presidential election just seven months away. The question still remains: Just how much will it impact votes in November? “I don’t think there is a magic formula or a specific unemployment number that can guarantee the President’s loss or victory in November,” says Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report and founder of PoliticsInStereo.com.

Gonzales says it’s more about the perception of the economy and not the actual data. If Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, they will be less apt to change the leadership. This reality frustrates the White House he says, because voters could be susceptible to a sentiment that may or may not match the numbers. Jobs reports like the ones released today are important, but it’s more about the broader trend leading up to the election.

“If (the economy) starts to go down, there’s more of a hiccup or a stalling…then that just plays right into the Republican hands being able to say ‘look it’s time for a change, the President’s policies aren’t working.'” If jobs numbers are the more cerebral data point, gas prices are the in your face indicator for the average American. “If gas prices are high I think that leads to a little bit of sense the country’s not headed in the right direction,” says Gonzales, “and that would fall on the shoulders of the incumbent president and people may be looking for a change once again.” Regardless of the weakness in the March numbers, Gonzales expects the President to stress overall economic improvement over the course of his first term.

Will improving economic data lead to a second term for Obama, or will Republicans convince voters the country is headed in the wrong direction?

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