At 10 a.m. today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its state-by-state jobs report, a series of findings that could well function as a final piece of the economic puzzle for undecided voters in swing states.
We've long argued that, while the national unemployment figure, which is released to much fanfare on the first Friday of every month, is absolutely important as a broad indicator of economic optimism or pessimism, it's the state unemployment numbers in each of the swing states that are of critical importance.
Think about it. Your perception about the relative health of the economy is far more likely to be influenced by what you see around you every day -- and what you feel in your own life -- than it is by something you see on the national news or read on a top-notch political blog hosted on the Washington Post's website.
A look at the August BLS numbers for the states -- the numbers that come out at 10 will be for September and will be the last state-by-state data from the BLS before the election -- suggests a mixed bag for President Obama and Mitt Romney.
In Nevada (12.1 percent), North Carolina (9.7 percent) and Florida (8.8 percent), the unemployment rates were significantly higher than the 8.1 percent national rate in August. On the other hand, the rates in Ohio (7.2 percent), New Hampshire (5.7 percent), Iowa (5.5 percent), Virginia (5.9 percent) and Wisconsin (7.5 percent) were lower than the national average. Colorado's unemployment rate of 8.2 percent was almost directly in line with the national rate.
Add up the states with unemployment rates higher than the national average, and you get 50 electoral votes. Add up the states with unemployment rates below the national average, and you get 51 electoral votes. Colorado, the pivot of the teeter-totter, awards nine electoral votes.
Now, the unemployment rate in any given swing state isn't the lone factor that will help people make up their minds. As we have seen over the last two months, neither a bad jobs report (August) for Obama nor a good one (September) appeared to have any direct and immediate effect on how people will vote on Nov. 6. There's a good possibility that all but a tiny sliver of voters are locked into their choice candidate now and literally nothing will change their minds.
Still, you can be sure both campaigns will be constantly refreshing the BLS website at 10 this morning to see which direction the numbers in the handful of swing states have moved. And that means political junkies would do well to keep a close eye on the numbers, too.
Restore Our Future launches $12 million buy: The top super PAC supporting Romney's campaign is making its biggest ad buy of the 2012 race, purchasing $12 million worth of ads in nine states.
The states include all of the major swing states -- save New Hampshire -- in addition to Michigan, a Democratic-leaning state where the super PAC has been among few players on either side.
Before this week, Restore Our Future had focused on only a few states; now it appears to be broadening its effort for the home stretch.
Obama says people weren't 'on the same page' on Libya: Obama defended his actions in regards to Libya during an appearance on "The Daily Show" on Thursday.
Asked about the administration's "confused" response by host Jon Stewart, Obama said information was passed along as it came in, but people weren't "on the same page."
“We weren’t confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed,” Obama said. “I wasn’t confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn’t confused about the fact that we’re going to hunt down whoever did it.”
A new NBC News/Marist College poll in Wisconsin shows Obama up six and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) leading by four in the state's open Senate race.
A new ad from the Obama campaign hits Romney for saying he would be "delighted" to sign a bill banning all abortions. The quote used is from 2007; Romney has since clarified that he believes in abortion exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Joe Biden mixes up Afghanistan and Iran.
Paul Ryan hits the Democrats' accusations of a GOP "war on women."
A new Gallup poll shows 44 percent of the LGBT community identifies as Democratic, while 43 percent say they are independent and 13 percent say they are Republicans.
Hillary Clinton suggests she won't be running for president again: "I'm going to be cheering them on," she said of other potential female candidates. "I hope to be around when we finally elect a woman president."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will deliver the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on Saturday in Des Moines and campaign with Obama earlier in the day.
Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon accuses the media of being overly critical of suggestions to reform Social Security.
A new ad from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says it's time to bring the troops home from the Middle East and focus on American infrastructure. "If a new road, bridge or school is built in West Virginia, I can guarantee you we won't burn it down or blow it up," Manchin says in the ad.
The conservative retiree group 60-Plus is going up with a $340,000 ad buy hitting two Arizona Democratic House candidates: former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) continues to lead the race for the next mayor, but her lead has shrunk.
"Democratic convention ends in debt, Republicans’ in the black" -- T.W. Farnam, Washington Post
"Inspector General’s Report Contradicts Secret Service on Prostitution Scandal" -- Jake Tapper, ABC News
"Gallup vs. the World" -- Nate Silver, New York Times
"The King of the Independents" -- Elizabeth Hartfield, ABC News
"Obama’s record: Struggling to bring back jobs" -- Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post
"For Obama and Romney, small New Hampshire could have a big impact" -- Dan Balz, Washington Post