Via Taegan Goddard, this Reuters story on the pessimism of some economists about the recovery has to be disconcerting to Obama’s high command:
Several Wall Street economists believe the government is mismeasuring seasonal shifts in the labor market, and suggest the jobless rate’s sharp winter drop was partly an illusion.
If their research is on the mark, the unemployment rate could change little in the coming months as pay back, robbing the Obama campaign of what otherwise might have been steady progress in the lead up to the election....
Potentially worrisome for Obama, who stands for re-election on November 6, is that the Wall Street research suggests the seasonal adjustments make it less likely the unemployment rate will continue declining through the summer and fall...
If the seasonal adjustment bites into labor data in the fall, it might affect the decisions of voters who don’t already lean toward Republicans or Democrats, said James Thurber, a political scientist at American University in Washington.
Those independent voters, who are particularly important in states with close races, can wait longer than others to make up their minds.
“If the unemployment rate stagnates, it will be harder for Obama to win in the battleground states,” said Thurber.
I’ll leave the evaluation of this to the economists, but if there’s anything to it, it’s yet another reminder that the recovery is anything but assured. This helps explain why the Obama campaign is already taking aggressive steps to remind voters of just how awful the economic crisis was when he first took office. Voters have short memories, and if they lose sight of the larger story here, things could look a lot worse in November 2012 than they do right now.
The Obama campaign needs to prepare for the absolute worst. If unemployment remains too high in the battleground states in the lead-up to the election, Mitt Romney’s silver-foot-in-mouth gaffes about firing people and $10,000 bets won’t matter a whit. Based on everything I’ve seen and heard, Obama and his advisers know this. They are under no illusions about just how difficult the fundamentals for reelection could prove, they are already thinking about how to handle the worst-case scenario — a stalled recovery or downturn — and they are continually warning against overconfidence. It’s going to be a grueling eight months.