WASHINGTON -- President Obama went to Toledo, Ohio, last Friday to boast about his "economic recovery," but didn't say a word about that morning's grim unemployment report showing only 54,000 jobs created in May.
The worse-than-anemic jobs number, down sharply from 232,000 jobs in April, caused the unemployment rate to balloon to 9.1 percent and left the president speechless about the most politically potent economic statistic the government produces each month.
It was the latest economic body blow his presidency has suffered in recent weeks. Earlier reports showed that home prices continued to decline in nearly every major market in the country, falling to their lowest levels since the spring of 2009; the nation's economic growth rate slowed to a snail's-pace 1.8 percent in the first quarter; state and local government jobs were slashing jobs in the face of huge deficits and sharply declining revenues; and employers from coast to coast were complaining of continued uncertainty in a lackluster economy that prevented them from expanding their workforce.
If Obama's economic advisers truly believe that a majority of Americans think the economy is doing better under his policies, Tuesday's Washington Post-ABC News Poll put that notion to rest.
The Post poll found "a broadly pessimistic mood in the country," with 57 percent of Americans saying "the economic recovery has not begun." Even those who believe the economy has improved since the 2008-09 recession complain that it remains weak.
Overall, six in 10 give Obama failing grades on the economy, the budget deficit and the national debt. Notably, nearly two-thirds of the political independents said they did not like the way he was handling the economy, and a majority expressed "strong" disapproval.
The poll's most revealing political finding: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner for the 2012 presidential nomination who has made the economy and jobs his top campaign issues, now leads Obama among registered voters by 49 percent to 46 percent.
While the president seemed unable to face reality and talk openly about the bleak job statistics last week, Democratic strategists were more than eager to lecture him on the No. 1 issue that threatens to topple his presidency.
"No incumbent president since (Franklin D.) Roosevelt has won re-election with greater than 8 percent unemployment," Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said in a report for the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps.