Mitt Romney enjoyed just a small-to-modest bounce in the polls from his party's convention. President Barack Obama has to worry about getting a big downer the day after his convention.
On Friday, the Labor Department announces unemployment data for August. The last report showed the jobless rate still painfully high at 8.3 percent. So both parties are keenly watching the new numbers.
The jobs report may bear more on Obama's political fate than all the happy-face speeches at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., which began Tuesday and featured an evening speech by Michelle Obama.
If the jobs report shows a marked improvement, it could lend momentum to the Obama campaign thus far lacking. Another bad month could do the opposite.
Presidents historically have gotten a heads-up before the release. Obama campaign officials said Tuesday they didn't know if he would be briefed before delivering his acceptance speech Thursday.
Even though many jobs have come back since the depth of the recession in 2008-2009, there still remains a net — although shrinking — loss of jobs under Obama.
The tight race makes the three presidential debates in October all the more important. Romney spent Tuesday in debate preparation in Vermont.
Romney's modest convention bounce reflected how few Americans remain undecided.
President Jimmy Carter was clinging to a small lead in most major polls when challenger Ronald Reagan famously posed this question at their sole debate in late October 1980: "Ask yourself, 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago?'"
Republicans are asking that question again.
"The president made a lot of promises. Those promises haven't materialized," said GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, making the rounds of morning television interviews. Ryan also campaigned in Ohio and Iowa.
Obama, in his final pre-convention stop in Norfolk, Va., said he'd watch his wife's speech from the White House, calling her "the star of the Obama family." He goes to Charlotte Wednesday.
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