Salena Zito

Where are the jobs?

Not the stimulus signs, not the rhetoric about “shovel-ready” economic voodoo, not the propping-up of an anemic manufacturing sector, but real jobs?

Polls showed at the beginning of July that President Obama is in an increasingly hazardous position with voters when it comes to jobs and the economy.

The McClatchy-Marist poll put his economic-approval favorable rating at just 37 percent of registered voters, and a Gallup poll found U.S. economic confidence has plummeted by seven percentage points since last month.

Last year in Pennsylvania, Obama used the Allentown Metal Works as backdrop to tout the success of his stimulus and job-creation programs. A couple of months later, the plant closed.

His vice-president, Joe Biden, told a crowd in Pittsburgh that 250,000 to 500,000 jobs would be created each month by the start of last summer. The numbers never even came close.

To date, this administration’s handling of our economy is a failure.

“Excepting some unanticipated major event, the election will largely ride on the state of the economy and public perceptions of how Obama has handled it,” said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.

All that the political opposition must do is to seed as much doubt as possible about Obama’s economic leadership, to strike this tone early and often, and the president has a political problem more potent than his rhetorical skills.

On a “Factory Belt” tour last month, Obama spoke about new worker-training partnerships with government and academic elements in the political battlegrounds of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

It was an attempt to project confidence in our economic future – but it’s hard to sell job growth that is moving at glacial speed.

“In the short term, there may be some support for the president because he is ‘doing something’ about the economy,” explained Rozell, “but, ultimately, the real test is whether economic circumstances improve in time for election day next year.”

In politics, perception is what counts.

Last weekend, the White House released its seventh quarterly report. Written by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, it showed the Obama stimulus effort added or saved fewer than 2.4 million jobs – at a cost to taxpayers of more than $250,000 per job.

Most Americans cannot understand how that can be considered sound economic reasoning. They find it difficult to rally around what, to them, looks like foolishness.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.