Jobs: A Silver Lining for Democrats?

| Fri Jun. 25, 2010 12:00 PM EDT

Democrats have been vowing to make the 2010 elections all about jobs, jobs, jobs. And yesterday, the GOP dealt the Democratic Party—as well as the nation's economic recovery—a big blow by voting down the Senate jobs bill. By week’s end, some 1.3 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits, which had been extended by the federal government given the ongoing recession. By the end of the year, many states will begin a painful process of budget bloodletting that’s likely to axe hundreds of thousands of jobs in both the public and private sectors. The bill's failure will make it that much more difficult for Democrats to prevent voters from turning against them out of anger about the sluggish economic recovery.

But the New York Times points to a potential silver lining for jobs in key battleground states that could give Democrats a potential boost this fall. The story notes that the largest number of swing House races are happening in Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio—places where jobs are actually bouncing back more quickly than in the rest of the country. And concrete improvements in these districts could end up having more of an effect on voters' mindsets than overall economic trendlines. Michael Luo explains:

All three states, coincidentally, are considered to be on the leading edge of the nation's recovery. Since December, they have added jobs at a faster rate than the country as a whole and even led the country in the total number of jobs added in April. One reason is that manufacturing, a traditional backbone, has been on the rebound; another is that these states generally did not suffer as acutely as other regions from the housing boom and bust.

While much attention has been paid to the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate, political scientists have found little correlation between that measure and midterm elections results. Instead, they have found more broad-based indicators, particularly real personal disposable per capita income, which measures the amount of money a household has after taxes and inflation, to be better gauges.

The story notes, moreover, that "voters' memories tend to be short,” citing political science research showing that economic conditions between the second and third quarters of an election year (between April and September) matter the most.

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Things don’t look as promising on the Senate side: Nevada and Florida, two of the biggest battleground states, are expected to be among the last states to witness steady employment growth. And of the 17 contested Senate seats, Luo writes, "only one state on the list, Connecticut, is projected to have experienced disposable income growth from 2009 to 2010."

The state budget cuts tied to the Medicaid shortfall aren’t expected to be enacted until December 31, when the federal stimulus money that has helped support the program expires. That may spare the Democrats from some of the midterm-election fallout that could result from the cuts in jobs and social services expected in many of these key battleground areas—including New York and Pennsylvania, which are both facing budget crises. But overall the Democrats are likey to suffer for the intransigence of the GOP.

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