No one believes the White House (or all of government, for that matter) controls what happens to the economy and certainly not on a short-term basis, but weekly unemployment figures from now until November could help re-elect Barack Obama—-or defeat him.
The Caucus rightly concludes: “The biggest test for Mr. Obama and his Republican adversaries in the months to come may be how agile they are in responding to the ups and downs of the jobs reports.”
A President Romney (or, Heaven help us, Santorum) could be inaugurated in January based on temporary numbers that have little to do with America’s future for four years of picking Supreme Court Justices, signing or vetoing vital laws and having a finger on the nuclear button.
It was always this way, but never so much so. “October surprise” is embedded in the political vocabulary, but 24/7 media have heightened the velocity and volatility that threaten the nation’s future to an unnerving degree.
Look back at October 1964 when Lyndon Johnson, polling well ahead of Barry Goldwater, was suddenly struck by news that his closest aide had been arrested with another man in a YMCA restroom and fined $50 for disorderly conduct.
Back then, many newspapers hesitated to publish the story and Goldwater himself refused to make an issue of it. Later he wrote that it was “a sad time” for the man’s wife and children, and “I was not about to add to their private sorrow. Winning isn't everything. Some things, like loyalty to friends or lasting principle, are more important."
Maybe media and politicians were less sensitive then to the public’s right to know everything immediately, but the fate of the nation was not hanging by every news thread, either.
Meanwhile, we now have to hold our breaths as every jobs number comes down the pike to be greeted with hope or dismay, depending on the disposition of the beholder.