Charlotte Douglas International Airport, N.C. — The news travels on two tracks; the lightning-fast express lane for news junkies like us, plugged into blogs, Twitter, and so on, and the meandering scenic route for everyone else.
There aren’t that many undecided, apolitical news junkies. We know what we think and why we think it, and most years we know exactly who we’re voting for in the general election quite early. Then there is everyone else — folks who may or may not vote in any given year, and who may make their decision based upon all kinds of factors — name recognition, an ad, the candidates’ appearance, just about anything.
The latter group doesn’t watch political conventions if they can help it, and they tune out most political speeches. Maybe something odd, unexpected and funny, like Clint Eastwood’s appearance, might break through to them. But if millions upon millions of television ads aren’t swaying these voters, it’s not likely that any of the speeches we’ve seen in the past two weeks will really move them. Not Paul Ryan’s description of the fading Obama posters and not Mitt Romney’s seemingly humble goal to help you and your family; not Bill Clinton’s epic-length discussion of every political topic under the sun, nor Vice President Biden’s whisper-SHOUT-whisper-SHOUT performance, nor the president’s speech last night.
And while this morning’s jobs report by itself won’t move the numbers — there’s been very little movement in the candidates’ polling after each month, whether the news is good or bad — it does reinforce the fundamental problem for President Obama: He was elected because of an economic crisis and rising unemployment, and his reelection is endangered because of a continuing economic crisis and continued high unemployment.
Remember, the McCain-Palin ticket had a lead in the RealClearPolitics average from September 7 to September 15. Everything Obama had done before — the victory over Hillary, the speech on race relations after the Jeremiah Wright controversy arose, the big crowd in Berlin, the stadium speech in Denver — all wiped away instantly by the Palin excitement. Voters weren’t in love with the then-mandate-free notion of Obamacare, or his foreign-policy vision, or the Biden pick, or anything else.
Then Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, Obama took the lead, and didn’t look back. Voters may not have known precisely what was going on with the crisis on Wall Street, but they knew it happened on Bush’s watch, and that McCain had already admitted he wasn’t an economics guy. The GOP candidate’s sudden calling for the cancellation of the debates, and changing his mind two days later, didn’t reassure voters, either.
The voters turned to Obama because there was a big, big problem, and they wanted it fixed. While the details have changed a bit, as Wall Street seems much more stable, the economy hasn’t really recovered, particularly by the measurements of job creation, labor-force participation, wage growth, and disposable income.
As America’s most famous chair salesman said, 25 million Americans looking for work is a national disgrace. You don’t have to be a news junkie to come to that conclusion.