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Does Weak March Jobs Report Doom Obama Re-Election Bid?

Kevin Chupka
Executive Producer/Writer

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The March jobs report delivered a downside surprise with the economy adding only 120,000 new payrolls, while the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.2%.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle will pounce on these numbers with the Presidential election just seven months away. The question still remains: Just how much will it impact votes in November?

"I don't think there is a magic formula or a specific unemployment number that can guarantee the President's loss or victory in November," says Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Rothenberg Political Report and founder of PoliticsInStereo.com.

Gonzales says it's more about the perception of the economy and not the actual data. If Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, they will be less apt to change the leadership. This reality frustrates the White House he says, because voters could be susceptible to a sentiment that may or may not match the numbers.

Jobs reports like the ones released today are important, but it's more about the broader trend leading up to the election.

"If (the economy) starts to go down, there's more of a hiccup or a stalling…then that just plays right into the Republican hands being able to say 'look it's time for a change, the President's policies aren't working.'"

If jobs numbers are the more cerebral data point, gas prices are the in your face indicator for the average American.

"If gas prices are high I think that leads to a little bit of sense the country's not headed in the right direction," says Gonzales, "and that would fall on the shoulders of the incumbent president and people may be looking for a change once again."

Regardless of the weakness in the March numbers, Gonzales expects the President to stress overall economic improvement over the course of his first term.

"The economy was so bad that relative to where we were, those numbers start to look better and I think that's what the president is banking on saying 'at least we're not where we were — things could be worse.'" Such an argument is "very different from the hope and change message that we saw in 2008."

Gonzales points out that the same metrics used to handicap the Presidential race are at play for Congress too. And the bottom line is not good for Democrats. If America wants a change they'll take it out on the President and his party and if they are happy with the status quo incumbents in both parties stand a better chance at staying in office. That would mean an increased likelihood that Republicans maintain control of the house.

Will improving economic data lead to a second term for Obama, or will Republicans convince voters the country is headed in the wrong direction? Let us know in the comments below or visit us on Facebook.