Was 7.8% the Ultimate October Surprise?

Was 7.8% the Ultimate October Surprise?


The post presidential debate analysis has Governor Romney clearly defeating President Obama and generating much needed momentum going into this last month of the campaign. Many characterized this first debate as Romney’s last gasp, his last-ditch effort to restart his campaign.  Romney came out swinging.  He was assertive, aggressive, and clearly understood that he had to sell himself to the viewers, even if he had to lie to do so.  Unfortunately, President Obama allowed him to do just that.

Energized by his showing in the debate, Romney has hit the road with a new found confidence. According to the Wisconsin Journal Sentinel,  “Energized by a strong debate performance…Mitt Romney took aim Thursday at President Barack Obama’s record in office and vowed to spur a strong recovery for the American economy. ‘The American people don’t want higher taxes, they want less spending and more growth,’ Romney told thousands of supporters during a nighttime rally in the heart of Virginia, a presidential battleground state.”

Early poll results show a positive swing for Romney.  According to the Huffington Post, “Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney gained ground on Democratic President Barack Obama after a strong performance in their first debate… according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after their prime-time face-off. Romney is now viewed positively by 51 percent of voters, the first time he has enjoyed a net positive in the U.S. presidential race…Obama’s favorability rating remained unchanged at 56 percent, according to the poll.”

Could Romney’s performance swing the election?  Could his performance be the re-start or re-launch that his campaign needed? Before Republicans get too giddy or euphoric behind Romney’s performance (or the President’s lack thereof) and start calling this Romney’s “October Surprise”, there are two things to remember. First, there are two more debates and the President’s strategy for the last two will not be the same as the first.  Second, the President has his own surprise that should resonate across the country; it’s called the most recent job numbers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for the month of September fell below 8.0 percent to 7.8 percent. This is the lowest rate of unemployment in this country since President Obama took office in 2009.  114,000 jobs were added in September on top of a revised 142,000 for the month of August.  Hourly earnings also went up higher than anticipated.

Last year the pundits and analysts were asking if President Obama could be reelected with the unemployment rate above 8 percent.  As recently as this past August the AP ran a story where they stated, “No U.S. president since World War II has faced re-election with unemployment over 8 percent.”

In 2011 the budget and economic forecast from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that unemployment would remain high for the foreseeable future (and it has).  The CBO projected that the unemployment rate would gradually fall in the near term, to 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, 8.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, and 7.4 percent at the end of 2013.

Well, the September results indicate that the administration is ahead of the forecasts.  We are now in 4Q 2012 and 7.8 percent is lower than 8.2 percent.  Yes Mr. Romney, the country is better off today than it was when President Obama took office. As former President Clinton said, it is simple arithmetic.

In January of 2011, I wrote an Op-Ed entitled, “Can Obama Win in 2012 if Unemployment Stays as is above 8 percent?”  In it, I concluded, “Predicting the political future requires more than tea leaves, a crystal ball, and good polling data.  Other factors such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigration, health care, and political opponents will play an important role in the 2012 outcome… As it stands right now, in spite of the current unemployment rate of 9.4 percent and projections of high unemployment rates through 2012, President Obama can win a re-election. Continued economic growth, slow as it may be, should push President Obama’s approval numbers over 50 percent. Other factors being equal, if he’s able to keep his approval rate above 50 percent, history is on his side.”

I’ve been saying for the past eighteen months that it’s not as much the unemployment number as it is the trend.  So long as the administration can demonstrate that things are trending in the right direction the actual number is not as important.  Also, in spite of Romney’s numerous restarts he’s still behind in the national polls 46 percent to 49 percent and in Michigan 42 percent to 52 percent, Pennsylvania 42 percent to 50 percent, and Ohio 46 percent to 49 percent.

I don’t have tea leaves or a crystal ball.  On October 4, 2012 and one month before the election the President has an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, an opponent who has put no substantive policy initiatives on the table, and continually lies to the American people.  What an October surprise.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with  WilmerLeon,” and a Teaching Associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  Go to  Dr-Leons-Prescription@facebook.com,  www.wilmerleon.com , email:wjl3us@yahoo.com. orwww.twitter.com/drwleon