Time flies when you are having fun—it has been a month since the last middling jobs report and it is time for another one. Jobless claims rose for the last week of July, indicating that the general consensus among economists is correct—the upcoming report is not going to show anything close to a rosy picture.
The word "decelerating" is now widely used to describe the current state of the U.S. economy. President Barack Obama and his team should have spent the last month taking steps to show the electorate that he has some clue on how to get the economy on the right track. That would have been the right course from the policy perspective, after all that is what he was elected to do, as well as the correct political maneuver in inspiring voter confidence.
Instead, the president and his campaign have been too busy trying to shift the focus from the single most important issue to marginal points such as Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's additional tax returns and his statements during the recent overseas trip. Obama has also chosen to continue a social warfare crusade of blaming Romney for his own successes in a barrage of negative ads across the battleground states.
The net result is that the election stands today in eerily the same position it was a month ago—a mathematical dead heat according to a cross-section of the polls.
After the last jobs report came out, Obama asked the voters to "not read too much into it." That message simply did not work, nor did the continued attempts at distraction that followed it. Safe money says that Obama will again follow his team's advice and react to another subpar jobs report in a subpar way.
That presents a real opportunity for Romney. The GOP standard bearer can use the next 30 days until the following jobs report, and the following 60 days to the election, to do what Obama has not been able to—convince the American public that he is the right man to lead the country on the economy.
The left's narrative that Romney has not made specific proposals on how to grow the economy is wrong. From reforming the tax code in a revenue neutral manner to curbing spending and debt to repealing the Dodd-Frank Act and Obamacare, Romney has put forth a plan that, according to Columbia Business School's Dean Hubbard, would create 12 million jobs in the first term of a Romney presidency.
Romney has to use such a message of job creation mixed with a proven track record to paint himself as the needed contrast to the inept Obama. Once that picture is drawn, it will be very hard for Obama to earn a second term no matter how many distractions he and his team employ.