The last remaining political land mine embedded in Barack Obama’s path to reelection has failed to detonate.
With time fast runing out, the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning released the last monthly jobs report we’ll see in this election. The news was unexpectedly decent: 171,000 nonfarm jobs added in October, and unemployment essentially unchanged at 7.9 percent.
What’s more, the August numbers were revised upwards from 142,000 to 192,000, and the September numbers were boosted from 114,000 to 148,000. This suggests the possibility that something was stirring in the economy that we hadn’t picked up, and could help explain why Obama’s small but seemingly durable edge in the electoral college has persisted.
The news will be taken as a relief by the Obama campaign. It will allow Obama to continue making the case that the economy is healing — and it will undercut Mitt Romney’s closing argument that only putting him in charge will bring about a “real recovery.” However, today’s numbers are unlikely to impact the presidential race in a dramatic way. It solidifies the fundamentals that have persisted for many months now — this is a weak recovery, but it is a recovery, which means a very close presidential race, with a narrow advantage to the incumbent.
What these numbers really mean is that the last remaining catastrophe that could have derailed Obama’s reelection effort didn’t happen.
Despite all the ridiculous hyping of this one metric in the political media, the monthly jobs number would have had to be very bad, say below 50,000 or negative (or very good, say 200,000 or above) to meaningfully change the race. But a disastrously bad number has always been a real possibility, and it really could have undermined the fundamentals that narrowly favor Obama. Indeed, the possibility of an awful jobs report, along with trouble in Iran or a downturn in Europe, have long haunted Obama advisers as “externals” waiting to suddenly upend the carefully plotted course towards a second term.
With four days left until Election Day, today’s jobs report makes it definitive: None of those things has happened. In short: No October surprise. And now, it’s pretty much up to the two campaigns’ ground games — and to the voters themselves.
* No, late undecideds don’t always break for the challenger: Mark Blumenthal does a nice job debunking the shibboleth that late undecided voters always break overwhelmingly for the challenger. Romney supporters like to say Obama’s failure to crack 50 percent means a late-breaking wave will put Romney over the top. Tell that to President John Kerry.
* Dems crushing GOP in sporadic Florida early voting? Via Taegan Goddard, the Tampa Bay Times notes that Democrats appear to be doing very well at getting sporadic and unlikely voters to vote early, which theoretically could give Dems a boost heading into election day. The race remains very close in the polling averages, which means that for all the “expand the map” talk, Romney still hasn’t put away Florida, an absolute must-win for him.
* A disaster for GOP in Indiana? A new poll out of Indiana suggests a possible disaster in the making for Republicans: Richard Mourdock’s support has collapsed after his comments about rape and God, and challenger Joe Donnelly has taken a 47-36 point lead. If this is right, it’s another instance of the Tea Party helping enable likely continued Dem control of the Senate saddling the GOP with bad candidates.
* Dems unlikely to take back the House: National Journal’s final rankings of House races suggest that Dems will not complete their vaunted “drive to 25,” though they may make gains. Interesting tidbits: Tea Partyer Joe Walsh appears to be losing to Tammy Duckworth. Several other notorious Tea Party types, such as Steve King, Frank Guinta, Chip Cravaack, and (less so) Allen West are locked in close races. Ann McLane Kuster, a favorite of liberal groups, may be on track to victory in New Hampshire.
* The blackmailers’ argument for Romney: Paul Krugman takes apart the case — made in the Des Moines Register and elsewhere — that we should reelect Romney because he will be able to break partisan gridlock, which Obama couldn’t do because Republicans wouldn’t allow him to break partisan gridlock. This translation of the argument made by Romney supporters is apt:
Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.
This is another way in which the stakes of this election are so high: If Romney wins, this argument, and this overarching strategy since day one of the Obama presidency, will be rewarded.
* Romney’s “47 percent” problem still dogging him in Ohio: Noam Scheiber lays out the case for one of this blog’s pet arguments: Romney’s debate performance did not overcome the months of attacks on Romney’s Bain background and concealed tax returns, at least in Ohio, where polling shows Romney failing to win working class whites at the rate he is nationally. I’d add that Ohio polls also show that he has not turned around his numbers on empathy and the middle class — more vindication (for now, anyway) for the Dem strategy.
* Dems are better for the economy: The Boston Globe sets the record straight:
If he is elected, Romney says, he would boost economic growth to 4 percent, double the current level — a rate that would outdo every Republican administration going back to 1953. But despite the view held by many that the GOP is the party of economic prosperity and soaring stock markets, the opposite has historically been true. Over the past six decades, Republican administrations have produced median economic growth of 2.6 percent. Democratic administrations, meanwhile, have produced a median growth rate of 4.2 percent.
But who’s counting?
* A desperate, last ditch lunge for Jewish votes: Glenn Kessler takes apart a remarkably dishonest robocall by the Romney-aligned Emergency Committee for Israel that slices and dices Obama and Netanyahu quotes to create a fake conversation between them casting Obama as weak on Israel. Just wow.
Remember all those months of predictions that this time around, really and truly this time around, Jewish voters would abandon Obama in large enough numbers to help put Romney over the top? This robocall tells you all you need to know about what those predictions have come to.
* Climate change must be top priority: Good piece by James Downie on the news media’s and the political establishment’s failure to discuss climate change in the context of Hurricane Sandy — and why it needs to be Obama’s top priority in his second term, should he win.
* And David Axelrod is the keeper of Obama’s narrative: A very nice profile of Axelrod by Jim Rutenberg, who may have done more than anyone else to help elect the nation’s first African American president. Note Axelrod’s pushback on the notion that it was somehow a betrayal of Obama’s 2008 idealism to fight back hard against Republicans who prioritized ensuring a one-term presidency above all else.