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February 12, 2016

Could Upbeat Economic News Help Obama, Democrats?

Last week’s news that the U.S. economy gained 288,000 jobs in June seems to confirm the upbeat economic assessments coming from many of the nation’s economists and Wall Street analysts.

The question is whether the data and increased optimism one might hear on CNBC will have an effect on the American electorate and alter the current trajectory of the midterm elections.

On a fundamental level, anything that improves overall sentiment about the direction of the nation is good news for President Barack Obama, and anything that is good news for Obama is good news for Democratic candidates around the country.

Good news could generate enthusiasm among base Democratic voters and, possibly, increase the chances that swing and independent voters won’t see the midterm balloting only as an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and the president’s performance.

Last month’s job numbers weren’t an anomaly. The economy has added almost 2.5 million new jobs over the past year, and the 6.1 percent jobless rate shows a remarkable improvement in employment, particularly in the private sector.

While the first quarter gross domestic product number was terrible and showed a contracting economy, economists agree that the second and third quarter numbers will show strong growth.

The stock market continues to test and make new highs, and the housing market is much improved. All in all, there is plenty of reason for optimism about the overall economy and the job market.

But Democratic strategists I talk with confirmed my instincts: While improved economic numbers could lead to a slight improvement in mood, it’s unlikely they will fundamentally alter the trajectory of the midterms.

June’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Obama’s job approval slipping to 41 percent, even though jobs numbers in the previous two months showed more than 200,000 jobs added per month and the unemployment rate improving.

The president’s approval for his handling of the economy also was a mere 41 percent, and the survey showed just 27 percent of those responding saying the economy will get better in the next 12 months.

Clearly, whether because people have left the labor market, remain underemployed or simply don’t feel better about their own or the country’s future, the upbeat economic news over the previous few months had not translated into increased optimism about the future, or improved the public’s view of the president’s performance.

A marketing strategist might suggest a public relations campaign to try to move opinion more in line with the economic news, but that’s such a dangerous approach in politics that it probably isn’t under consideration.

Telling voters that things are better than they think would be a risky strategy for the White House because unless the president succeeded in changing public attitudes, it would invite voters to see Obama as out of touch with the lives of average Americans. That would damage Democratic prospects in November and rob the president of any goodwill he still has with independent voters.

Obama still has the bully pulpit, but so deep into a presidency, the bully pulpit is less bully than it once was. That’s particularly true after years of slow economic growth.

Had the positive economic news surfaced during the first few years of Obama’s presidency, voters might well have responded by giving him credit for the rebound. (He did receive some credit prior to the 2012 elections.) Voters seem to be suffering from Obama fatigue, a frequent problem for two-term presidents.

“After six years of this administration,” one wise Democratic consultant noted, “people will never catch up to where they thought they would be at this point.”

“President Obama is going to hurt us,” conceded another Democrat recently. “But it probably won’t be like 2010. Then, he had a second term possibly ahead of him, so the midterm was about him. Now, he has only two years left in office.”

Of course, the public’s stubborn refusal to give the president much credit for what appears to be an economic rebound could change if economic (and jobs) reports, and the resulting buzz, confirm a real sea change in the economy. But with only four months until Election Day — and less time before early voting begins in many states — a change in mood is likely to have an impact only at the margins of the election.

An uptick in optimism resulting from good economic news could help save a couple (or even a handful) of House seats for Democrats, or it could merely improve the prospects of all incumbents, regardless of party. In any case, it wouldn’t come close to putting the House of Representatives in play in November.

On the other hand, if the good economic news helps even a single Democratic Senate incumbent under attack to hold his or her seat in the fall elections, that could be enough to help the party keep control of that body.


Related stories:

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • Layla

    One hundred million unemployed Americans will be at the polls and nothing will save you. Most jobs created in the past year went to foreign workers.

    There will also be heavy losses on the GOP side due to the fact that our borders are being overrun and you sit back and let the dictator prevail.

    • Nobama

      Short of impeaching both Obama AND Biden in the House (that would obviously go no where in the Senate, I mean not even a trial), what would you have the GOP do? How is the border fiasco in anyway their fault? Obama planned this whole thing in cahoots with the respective central American and Mexican governments.
      Obama and the Bolshevik Democrats are the enemy here, concentrate your anger at them.

      • Thomas Viveiros

        Nobama : Funny thing with this article that spews praise on 288,000 getting jobs . The rolling average of those getting laid off last month was 320,000 per week for the month of June and when you figure in the fact that just as many lost their unemployment benefits that is the reason why unemployment dropped slightly as darn near 10 million less and growing are not in the work force than 5.5 years ago . Those #’s do not like unlike the writer of this article .

        • Nobama

          Totally agree with you, good points

          • Thomas Viveiros

            I’ve been watching what the Communist DemocRATs have been up to for more than 6 decades now Nobama. I’ve seen you comment many times so it was time for a reply. Have a good day from Rhode/Rouges Island lol .

          • Nobama

            I got you beat there, Tom. I’m stuck in the Peoples Republic of CA.

  • ME

    I’m one of the 1-million unemployed Americans and I’m over 50. Shame on all of you for not helping us!

    Put people to work… and extend the border wall & start using drones to monitor.
    No more open areas for people to come through. Help the border pratrol.
    I vote too! Heavy losses on the GOP side.

    • Thomas Viveiros

      Hey You / Me lol . You forget one thing . Your no good lazy smelly muzzie master Hussein OwebaMao and the DemocRATs own this present economy so cry to them about your present day problems .

  • Jazzy

    Roll Call, maybe you forgot to mention, but lets be clear, 67% of the jobs are part-time jobs! AND.. AND the number of jobs gained is equal to the number of people who lost their emergency unemployment in June.

    288,000 jobs gained, 288,000 jobs lost.

    And…Lets be sure to include the 1 million people classified as unemployed who have never once had a job!! Yep, they are part of the unemployed stats too..

    • andrewp111

      Yeah. People vote their own economic situation, and the situation they see immediately around them. Statistics do not matter. The rising stock market does matter, though – particularly for older Independents who care what their 401K is worth. If the market has a big drop between now and election day, that could hurt the Democrats among these voters, just as a continued rise will help the Democrats.

      • Thomas Viveiros

        The stock market fraud was created by US Treasury notes flooding the stock market to stop a total stock market collapse . Beware of where you tread if life depends on the stock market and look what direction it’s headed the last couple days as that will be a recurring trend when the companies declare their sales for the last quarter .

  • ta111

    Stu, why are making these ludicrous claims of good economic news when it’s not true. You do realize the U3 unemployment rate has come down because things are so bad millions are dropping out of the workforce. The workeforce participation rate is at 36 year low. The people who are living this obama nightmare know how bad it is.

    • Thomas Viveiros

      Reading this propaganda of an article one would have to almost think the writer was a DemocRAT lol .

  • Water Dude

    Floyd Corkins, a domestic terrorist impelled by the SPLC, was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for his violent domestic terrorist attack in Washington, DC:

  • kaydahl

    The economy is improving. Obama insists that he has been able to get NOTHING accomplished since 2010 due to GOP obstructionism. So how can the Dems claim any credit for the econony which is obviously healing itself?

  • HypnoToad

    The crazy good economic news means that the participation rate has stopped falling… for a month! With the lawless EPA, open borders, and a congress and media that views corruption as ‘moderate’, I expect the decline of this country to resume.

  • PortageMain

    The official unemployment rate only tells part of the story. Not to accuse Stu of burying the lede, but it’s not until paragraph 11 that he gets to the part about the declining workforce participation rate and people dropping out of the job market. The real unemployment rate is obviously far higher than 6.1% and people sense that by looking at their own situation and those around them.

    Plus, the White House already took credit for ending the recession. Remember “Recovery Summer” that celebrated the Recovery Act and the millions of jobs it created? Yeah, that recovery.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    The Republican party has done a great injustice to the more than three million unemployed families that are Still without an unemployment extension and they don’t even care.Sadly, there STILL are more than three million unemployed workers STILL without an extension of benefits since late last December. For more than seven months, both political parties have played party politics, and have ignored and rejected passing the extension bill, leaving these millions of families in financial ruin and deep debt. Meanwhile, Billions of dollars are going to illegal migrants and to the Ukraine, While our own citizens are having to apply for food stamps & public assistance, and Medicaid. We’re asked to send our sons & daughters off to war, but yet not to expect help from our government. This is scandalous that we’re STILL without a retro extension bill passed in the senate. Why doesn’t our own citizens deserve the same attention and action that these other countries get?

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