President Barack Obama will log thousands of miles on Air Force One during the next 53 days as he campaigns across the country asking voters to give him another four years in the White House.
When Obama travels to Nevada and Colorado on Wednesday to pitch his economic plan to skeptical voters, he will need a convincing argument that explains why the 96,000 jobs recently added to the workforce is a significant step forward.
Two months before Election Day, there is only one narrative driving the Obama campaign’s re-election strategy: creating jobs for millions of unemployed Americans.
It’s an ambitious goal – and achievable in time.
The Labor Department said last week that employers added just 96,000 jobs in August, down from 141,000 in July. Even though the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, economists said the rate dropped because so many people quit looking for jobs so they were no longer counted as unemployed.
So as Obama boards Air Force One on Wednesday to campaign in Las Vegas and Denver, his senior campaign advisors are keenly aware of this noteworthy statistic: No incumbent president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has won re-election with unemployment higher than 7.8 percent.
Obama, however, is not focused about the past; he's only concerned about the future. As he crisscrosses the country, the president is telling Americans that the economy is improving but he's also quick to explain that it will take more time, perhaps years, for Americans to personally feel the recovery.
“While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, there is compelling evidence that indicates Obama's message is starting to resonate with voters.
New major polls show Obama extending his lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney by six points after last week’s Democratic National Convention. According to the CNN/ORC International Poll, 52% of likely voters nationwide back the president, compared with 46% for Romney. Just before the Democratic convention, Obama was tied with Romney 48%-48%.
And to build on the president's lead, Obama’s advisors will begin to prepare Obama for the first presidential debate against Romney on Oct. 3 – a debate the Obama campaign feels very confident about.
Even Republicans are now starting to get nervous. Some influential Republican leaders have told POLITICO privately that it appears that Obama now has a clearer path to success.
“Their map has many more routes to victory,” a top Republican official told POLITICO. Two GOP officials said Ohio leans clearly in Obama’s favor now. They said Romney can still win the presidency if he loses Ohio, but it would be very difficult.
But on the campaign trail, Romney blasted Obama saying the 96,000 jobs added to the workforce in August is pathetic.
“The weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families,” Romney said. "[It’s] a harsh indictment of the president’s handling of the economy.”
Despite Romney’s criticism of Obama, Romney still has the burden of perception: that he’s a callous billionaire who is only interested in offering tax breaks to other wealthy Americans while leaving middle-class and poor citizens to fend for themselves.
Most Americans say they don't find Romney as "likable" as Obama, perhaps because Romney often appears stiff on the campaign stump and often bars reporters from his fundraising events. For a man who desperately wants to hold public office, Romney certainly relishes his privacy.
In the meantime, Obama told a cheering crowd in West Palm Beach, Florida that he will get America back on track if he's re-elected to the White House.
"We've got less than two months left, but let me tell you something; if you give it your all for these next two months, I'm confident we're going to get there," Obama said Sunday. "We can't let up now because we've got more good jobs to create, we've got more homegrown energy to generate," Obama said. "We've got more good schools to build and more great teachers to hire. We've got more young people to send to college. We've got more troops to bring home."