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The Democrats’ Jobs Problem

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the challenges facing Democrats because of the dire economy they inherited, and the slow pace of job growth. The unemployment rate will probably tick up or hold steady until the November elections. The economy is not producing enough jobs to keep up with population growth. And a bad economy, as certain as death and taxes, bodes ill for incumbents.

But the piece opens with an anecdote does not square with my reporting at all. It’s an interview with an unemployed woman in Michigan:

Michelle Rena Jones cheered when candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden visited south-central Michigan in 2008. She supported Mr. Obama that November along with a slate of Democrats, including Mark Schauer in the 7th congressional district.

Now, the 40-year-old is rethinking her lifelong support for the party. She has been without steady work for two years, lost her home and car and began receiving cash assistance from the state for the first time. This year, she says, “I’m willing to take a chance on something different.” Another possibility, she says, is that she won’t vote at all.

Ms. Jones is part of an unmeasured, agitated mass: unemployed Americans who don’t believe the Obama Administration and Congress have done enough to produce jobs. With elections coming up, their unease is especially troublesome for the Democrats, who control both chambers.

A poor economy never bodes well for incumbents. Cook Report, the nonpartisan political newsletter that tracks congressional races, estimates that 73 House seats are vulnerable—including Mr. Schauer’s. This group has two things in common. Almost all (66 of 73) are held by Democrats, and most include counties that have unemployment rates exceeding the national average, according to data assembled by The Wall Street Journal.

Routinely, I’ve found that the unemployed know that Republicans have blocked benefits extensions, and support the Democrats, though they are frustrated with their inability to pass aggressive jobs legislation. (Consider Jordan, an unemployed former programmer in Nevada, who said he would vote for Sen. Harry Reid (D) rather than Sharron Angle, though he is a Republican.) The contention that the unemployed might not vote seems more accurate.

I looked for polling data on the political preferences of the unemployed, but have not found any. Still, I think the Democrats will have real trouble come November, due to the jobs situation. But it won’t be due to the unemployed swinging right.

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