President Obama hurt by August jobs report released on Friday

at 06:30 AM ET, 09/02/2011


President Obama takes his fight against high unemployment on the road Thursday, highlighting a Michigan firm that makes batteries for hybrid vehicles to tout his green energy jobs plan. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Update: The jobs report released Friday morning was much worse than expected, with the Labor Department reporting net zero job creation in August.

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its August jobs report Friday morning, the prevailing political question will be whether it represents the start of a new and better phase of the Obama presidency, or simply a doubling down on the dismal economic news that has gripped the nation for months.

Predictions suggest that roughly 60,000 jobs might have been created in August, a number that would continue the political woes for President Obama caused by the economy’s lingering problems.

But predictions about what the job report will or won’t say have often been way off, so it’s anyone’s guess what comes out of BLS this morning.

What’s clear, however, is that the Obama Administration badly needs a re-start after a(nother) disastrous August that saw the president’s numbers drop to record lows and the country descend deeper into economic pessimism.

Assuming that the jobs report shows in the neighborhood of 60,000 jobs created, it would provide fodder to Obama’s Republican critics who have long argued that not only are his policies not working but that the administration has little idea what else to do to make things better.

And that will, in turn, put even more pressure on Obama to deliver a “big” speech next Thursday night. The decision to speak before a joint session of Congress suggests that Obama and his political team understand the size of the moment. But understanding the moment and mastering it are two very different things.

The worse — or more deeply disappointing — the jobs report today, the more difficult it will be for Obama to thread the needle between acknowledging the continuing economic difficulties and offering some level of optimism about how his proposals can change things for the better.

And the reality that Obama can’t acknowledge is that presidents — of either party — have only a limited number of tools at their disposal to recharge the economy again. Obama’s hands are even more tied given that one possible solution — another major round of government stimulus spending — is politically dead-on-arrival in a Congress leery of any more federal spending.

Obama has, throughout his political career, proven to be someone who is almost always up to the big moment. But a negative jobs report today would further add to the degree of difficulty for Obama in six days time. And it was already pretty high.

Perry’s TARP problem?: Perry’s paper trail continues to follow him.

First, there was the HillaryCare letter Perry sent to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton in which Perry praised Clinton’s efforts. Now comes a letter Perry sent with then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) urging Congress to pass an “economic recovery package.”

The letter was used frequently against Perry in his 2010 Republican governor primary with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, whom Perry attacked for her support of the eventual 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout.

The letter was dated the same day that the TARP bill passed in the Senate and was written in Perry’s capacity as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

It didn’t seem to hurt him last year — Perry won the primary easily — but could it pay dividends in a race against a bunch of GOP candidates who didn’t vote for TARP?

In other Perry knews, ABC’s Michael Falcone questions the basis of Perry’s defense for supporting Al Gore in 1988.

GOP primaries get dicey: We may have been looking to the wrong states for the GOP’s primary problems.

As potentital intraparty battles have fizzled — to varrying degrees — in Senate races like Utah, Indiana and Virginia, they seem to be picking up elsewhere.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra’s (R-Mich.) Senate primary opponent Clark Durant offered some pretty strident criticism of Hoekstra on Wednesday, rebuffing urging from former governor John Engler that he drop out of the race and let Hoekstra be.

And in Wisconsin, former congressman Mark Neumann got the endorsement of the Club for Growth PAC as he tries to position himself as the chief alternative to former governor Tommy Thompson. Neumann is also in line to get the support of Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund.

NH GOP Chair resigns: Jack Kimball resigned as chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party last night, minutes before the state party’s executive council vote on whether to remove him.

“This isn’t about me,” he said. “It never has been. There is no ego here. This party needs to be unified, and I will not stand in the way of that. So tonight, sadly, very sadly — because I’m not sure this is helping anything — I am tendering my resignation.”

The chairman had previously vowed that he would not resign and would fight any attempt to force him out of office.

Kimball was swept into office in January on a wave of tea party enthusiasm, beating a party insider. But his seven months as chairman were marked by losses in local special elections, meager fundraising and political infighting.

Fixbits:

Perry’s folks are pushing back on an ad run in South Carolina by a pro-Bachmann super PAC.

Bachmann-Rubio?

The White House estimates the unemployment rate will be 8.2 percent when Obama seeks reelection — the highest since FDR won reelection in 1936.

27-year-old state New Hampshire state Senate Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt backs Romney.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) joins a growing chorus of Democrats distancing themselves from Obama.

Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) chose which districts they’ll run in under California’s overhauled map.

Must-reads:

Palin fuels presidential fire, but at what cost?” — Becky Bohrer, AP

Immigration is flashpoint for Republican presidential hopefuls” — Philip Rucker, Washington Post

GOP hopes rise for control of the Senate” — Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

It’s Hard to Find Jewish Bachmann Supporters Who Think Bachmann Is Jewish” — Dan Amira, New York Magazine

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