-- The percent of Americans unable to find work, forced to take part-time work or who have given up looking work in the month of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate has been essentially steady since February.
The June jobs report looks a lot like the one from May. Anemic jobs growth that not only falls short of expectations but also falls short of the number needed to accommodate young job seekers entering the economy.
It takes something like 125,000 new jobs a month to keep pace with population growth. With only 80,000 jobs added in June, the economy is at best stagnating and may be getting ready to take another tumble. Dipping corporate profits, weak manufacturing and sagging consumer confidence all suggest that a recessionary round could be ahead.
This is an unfortunate moment for the president to be on a Rust Belt bus trip. Obama has a complex rationale as to why the dreadful condition of the economy is the fault of Republicans, but getting that to stick when things are so bad is no easy task.
But here’s the biggest test for Obama: Can he resist trying to make that argument today. Trying to explain why last month’s bad number wasn’t so bad, Obama fumbled the ball and said that the private sector was “doing fine.”
This month’s jobs number would have been 4,000 better had it not been for continued layoffs from state and local governments. As the spending from Obama’s two stimuli for government payrolls expire, governments are being forced to scale back.
Obama sees this as evidence for the need for his long-standing call for more government payroll stimulus funded by higher taxes on top earners. In a report so bad, those 4,000 jobs wouldn’t have made much difference, but seeing the private sector adding any jobs and the public sector shrinking is a great frustration for Obama Democrats.
Obama has been relentlessly on message since he first hit the campaign trail in full fashion last fall: What he did is working but it would be working faster if Republicans allowed another round of government payroll stimulus and increased taxes. Obama says the country should stay the current course, but travel faster.
But given that his challenger’s primary point of prosecution is that Obama himself made the recovery weaker and slower with bad policies, the president might not be able to hold the line indefinitely.
In economics, bad news often begets bad news. Today’s big bad news could add fuel to the recessionary fires now burning around the world.
Obama might be able to go out today and tout “another month of job growth” and call for more government payroll stimulus, but the time may soon come that the incumbent needs to acknowledge deepening fears among his constituents and offer a new line of argument.
As he continues his two-day trip through Ohio and Pennsylvania, Obama will celebrate bailouts and government spending as the keys to having prevented a depression. Even if they credit him with that, voters might still come to believe that his policies are responsible for the current stagnation.
Democrats Cheer as Conservatives Suffer Bout of Romney Anxiety
“Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for, for six years simply because you're getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh or some critics in Washington?”
-- President Obama in an interview with Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT.
Mitt Romney reportedly raised more money in June than any Republican presidential candidate ever has in a single month – cresting above the $100 million mark and almost certainly substantially out-raising President Obama.
Romney is in a dead heat with Obama in polls nationally and swing-state polls show the race very much within reach for the challenger.
So why, then, are there so many crabby Republicans? The man who conservatives said would get rolled over by Obama is more than holding his own. Ought the right be pleasantly surprised?
From Bill Kristol to John Sununu, the criticism of Romney’s campaign response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on Obama’s 2010 health law have been stinging.
Romney came out of the gate strongly with a tough speech just hours after the law was upheld, promising to use the public opposition to the law to uproot Obama.
But when congressional Republicans seized on a key element in the decision -- the re-writing of the law to define the penalty for those who do not comply with the requirement to purchase private insurance as a new tax, not a fine – Team Romney got squirmy.
On Monday, Romney message man Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC that he didn’t agree. The motive here was pretty clear: to spare Romney from more attacks that he raised taxes while governing Massachusetts. If the insurance mandate is a tax in Washington, then it is in Boston too.
Two days later, Romney settled the hash, telling CBS that yes, the mandate is a tax.
But this effort at a gap shot by Ferhnstrom reinforced concerns among conservatives about Romney’s nuanced approach to campaigning.
Romney won the GOP nomination by playing rope-a-dope with a string of aggressive challengers, letting them wear themselves out and then knocking them over with quick, strong punches. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum warned, even as they were being cut to ribbons, that what was working in the primaries would not work against Obama.
For supporters of those challengers, there is huge eagerness to find evidence of these claims here in the general election. No matter how much these voters would like to see Obama defeated, “I told you so” is among the most satisfying sentences that can be uttered.
So when these folks see Romney doing anything equivocal or Fehrnstrom using tortured terminology, the cry rises up on the right. Not only that, but Romney went to his New Hampshire lake house for the Independence Day holiday when Republicans think he should be out assailing Obama. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page lambasted his “cameo” aboard a jet ski with his wife, Ann.
This gives the president and his team a chance to capitalize on the divisions and is catnip to the establishment press, which has been unable to write until now its preferred and expected headlines: Divisions on Right Hamper Romney, Conservative Uproar on Romney Message, etc.
That has taken some of the bite out of what had been the real story of political division this year: the re-emergence of the split between the Obama Democrats and the Clinton Democrats. The president’s fundraising has been sub-par. His character attack on Romney’s wealth and private-sector work were widely panned. Also, “See you in Charlotte? Um, well, the thing is…”
Fehrnstrom’s trial balloon, hyper inflated by the left, has finally helped produce a bit of infighting that was typical of the grueling GOP primary process.
Part of this is unavoidable. Romney, a moderate, is not fluent in the language of the dominant right wing of the GOP. And, for the most ardent Romney foes in the party, like Kristol, any signs of tentativeness or triangulation will be evidence of Romney’s unsuitability.
But some of this is avoidable. Romney, like all outsider candidates, has a team of outsiders. This is not good for a candidate who lacks fluency in the language of his party. The move by the campaign to staff up its communications shop with some folks beyond the Boston-based Romney World is an indication that the candidate sees it too. Insularity is helpful in a primary, but poison in a general election.
By bringing in some new blood, deepening connections with the Republican National Committee and congressional Republicans and doing less gassing about strategy on television, Romney could deal with some of this Boston versus Washington problem.
The other part falls to Romney directly. Campaigns come to reflect their candidates and Romney has a penchant for favoring the complex when the simple would do. Obama is the worst offender in modern politics on this subject, but Romney is also a great producer of word salads.
Lots of words do offer more places to hide, but, as Romney has frequently found out, there is peril too. Unless a candidate is both a maestro on policy and a gifted impromptu speaker, a combination possessed by neither candidate this time around, it is best to keep it straight, keep it simple and be direct.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“Instead of just ignoring [his own law in Massachusetts] -- who cares about that – [Mitt Romney] is handed by the Supreme Court the notion at the heart of Obamacare is a tax. And it is a tax, three-quarters of which ends up falling on people of middle income under $120,000, and he blows it. He says at the beginning it's a mandate, now it's a tax. It looks as if there is an internal debate within his campaign. And he not only didn't take advantage of something he was handed, he turned it into a negative.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.