Job Woes Hit Blue States Hardest, Spelling Trouble for Democrats

States that voted for President Obama in 2008 are now among the worst hit by the recession, which could spell trouble for Democrats who were hoping to ride his coattails in 2010.

Data released Friday showed that employers shed fewer jobs in November than in October, and the jobless rate dipped to 10 percent from 10.2 percent. That figure, while still high, gave the Obama administration some needed relief amid increasing public pressure to stem unemployment.

But the employment picture varies wildly across the 50 states, with unemployment rates ranging from 4 to 15 percent, according to the latest-available October figures. And eight of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rate went for Obama in 2008. With job woes prompting a potential backlash against incumbents, normally Democratic territory could be hanging in the balance.

"This is a big deal," said Jeremy Mayer, public policy professor at George Mason University. "They're going to revolve around economic issues more than they otherwise would have, and things like health care might matter a lot less in the context of, 'What's my job?'"

The scenario gives Republicans fresh opportunities in normally Democratic territory, and they can be expected to hammer their opponents for failing to create jobs. Democrats, in turn, may have to turn against the Obama administration to save their own hides.

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The power of Obama's coattails was already thrown into question a month ago when Republicans won the governor races in New Jersey and Virginia. Republican Bob McDonnell ran in Virginia on a jobs agenda and is now considered by some in the GOP to be a model for future candidates.

The state that has been hit hardest by the recession is Michigan, which has been economically depressed for years. But with a whopping 15.1 percent unemployment rate, it makes the departure of term-limited Gov. Jennifer Granholm all the more precarious for the Democrats.

A recent poll showed Republican Attorney General Mike Cox leading Democratic front-runner Lt. Gov. John Cherry by double-digits. The poll of 600 likely voters, taken by Mitchell Research and Communications, showed Cox with 45 percent to Cherry's 32 percent.

"It doesn't matter to me who gets the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Michigan -- I'm betting on him," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "I don't see any way that a Democrat can succeed the Democratic incumbent."

The next-worst state, Nevada, has a jobless rate of 13 percent -- a number that surely causes headaches for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has consistently faced stiff competition from the Republican candidates vying to take his seat.

A new Mason-Dixon poll showed Reid trailing Sue Lowden, former state GOP chairwoman, by 10 points. It showed him trailing businessman Danny Tarkanian by 6 points.

Reid's campaign ads are focusing on his efforts to save jobs, but that hasn't turned the polling picture around for him.

Another hard-hit battleground is Illinois, where unemployment is 11 percent and where Democratic Sen. Roland Burris does not plan to run in 2010. Polling shows Republican candidate Rep. Mark Kirk in a close race with top Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer. An October Rasmussen poll showed them tied at 41 percent.

Another poll conducted by a rival candidate last month showed Kirk leading Giannoulias by 3 points, The Hill reported.

Jobs are also a big issue in Democrat-heavy California, where the jobless rate is 12.5 percent and where Sen. Barbara Boxer is fending off a challenge from Republican candidates. So far, she's maintained her lead; a recent Rasmussen poll showed her leading former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina by 9 points. But Boxer's businesswoman challenger is not shy about hammering the long-time senator over jobs.

"Does California have the representation we deserve? The clear answer is no," Fiorina wrote in an opinion piece in the Orange County Register last month. "Our most pressing problems today are too few jobs for Americans and too much spending in Washington. As California's senator, economic recovery and fiscal accountability will be my priorities. I will not settle for a jobless recovery."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is putting renewed focus on the economy, with Obama hosting a Washington jobs summit Thursday and embarking on a multi-city jobs tour Friday.

Economic adviser Christina Romer said on the White House blog Friday morning that the latest nation-wide jobless figures are "the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market."'s Judson Berger contributed to this report.