It’s still all about the econ­omy

The Covington News - - Opinion -

Mer­ci­fully, the po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions have ended.

The po­lit­i­cal press will keep buzzing over whether Clint East­wood’s un­con­ven­tional speech helped or hurt Mitt Rom­ney and whether the snafu over Is­rael and God in the Demo­cratic plat­form will do any last­ing dam­age to Pres­i­dent Obama. Repub­li­can re­porters will think for­mer Pres­i­dent Clin­ton talked too long, and Democrats will note that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked more about him­self than about Rom­ney.

But they are miss­ing the point. The cam­paign is about what’s hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica, not what the politi­cians are say­ing.

At the be­gin­ning of 2012, it was easy to note that if the econ­omy got bet­ter, Obama would be re-elected. If it got worse, he would lose. That gen­eral dy­namic still ap­plies, but the eco­nomic re­sults aren’t that clear cut.

At the be­gin­ning of the year, just 30 per­cent of work­ing Amer­i­cans thought they would be earn­ing more in a year. By March, as glim­mers of hope ap­peared in eco­nomic story lines, that num­ber jumped to 43 per­cent: a great sign for the pres­i­dent. But then the trends be­gan head­ing in the other di­rec­tion. Af­ter 43 per­cent voiced op­ti­mism about higher pay in March, the num­bers slipped to 42 per­cent in May, 41 per­cent in July and 40 per­cent to­day. And all of those fig­ures are down from the pres­i­dent’s early days in of­fice.

A sim­i­lar story can be seen by look­ing at the em­ploy­ment sit­u­a­tion. In Fe­bru­ary, the Ras­mussen Em­ploy­ment In­dex moved up to the high­est level in years. Then this mea­sure of la­bor mar­ket con­fi­dence be­gan drift­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Last month, the Em­ploy­ment In­dex hit a 10-month low. Just 21 per­cent of work­ers re­port that their firms are hir­ing, while 23 per­cent re­port lay­offs. That’s the sec­ond straight month where re­ported lay­offs have topped hir­ing.

Ad­di­tion­ally, 29 per­cent of those who have jobs are wor­ried about los­ing them. That’s up four points from a month ago and the high­est level of con­cern mea­sured since last fall.

An­other mea­sure of job se­cu­rity shows the same grow­ing con­cern. Just 62 per­cent of work­ers ex­pect it will be their choice to leave their cur­rent job.

That’s down 12 points since July and 19 points since May. When an em­ployee chooses to leave, it’s gen­er­ally good news for the worker. Per­haps they got a bet­ter of­fer or saved enough to re­tire. If some­one makes the de­ci­sion for you, the op­tions aren’t as good. Right now, the num­ber of peo­ple who think it will be their choice is at the low­est level since the sum­mer of 2009.

Just about all of the eco­nomic data tell a sim­i­lar story. Things are bet­ter to­day than they were in 2011 but not as good as they were ear­lier in 2012. The trend early in the year was good for the pres­i­dent, but now it’s head­ing the other way. The num­ber of Amer­i­cans who be­lieve their fi­nances are in good shape is down from four years ago but up from last sum­mer.

In the midst of all of this, 48 per­cent now trust Rom­ney more than the pres­i­dent on the econ­omy. Forty-four per­cent (44 per­cent) trust the pres­i­dent more. The good news for Rom­ney is that he has the ad­van­tage on the most im­por­tant is­sue of the cam­paign. The good news for the pres­i­dent is that Rom­ney’s ad­van­tage has been shrink­ing in re­cent months.

In short, the re­al­ity the po­lit­i­cal pun­dits too of­ten miss is that what hap­pens in the econ­omy mat­ters more than what hap­pens in the cam­paigns.

To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Creators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit creators.com.

SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN

COLUM­NIST

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