American EconomyBarack ObamaJimmy CarterPresident 2012Ronald ReaganUnemployment Rate

President 2012: In Key Battleground States Unemployment Has Increased Since October 2008

Electoral College vote map of Larry Sabato

Chris illizza over at the Washington Post looks at key battleground states for the Presidential race of 2012 and gives the data. You know the question in one of the Presidential debates to President Obama will be (like GOP challenger Ronald Reagan asked President Jimmy Carter in 1980): “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Well, with the regards to unemployment the news is not good for President Obama.

And that raw political reality could put President Obama in a difficult spot as he prepares to seek another four years in the White House amid conflicting signs about the relative health of the economy.

The state-by-state unemployment numbers released late last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell the story.

In every one of the 14 swing states heading into 2012 — Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — the unemployment rate has risen since October 2008.

The increases range from the tiny — just a 0.7-point jump in Minnesota and New Hampshire — to the titanic in places like Nevada (up 4.4 points) and Florida (up 3.6).

And, Obama’s only response will be: “You should have seen how bad it would have been.”

I don’t know if this is going to wash in Nevada and Florida.

But, on the other hand of these 14 swing states that Cillizza mentions only 4 have May unemployment above the national average. But, you know that is spin and unemployment generally is worse since President Obama has been in office.

President Reagan beat Jimmy Carter on the answer to the “better off” question. He won re-election because while unemployment was high, it was improving.

That “trend line” vote is why the late President Ronald Reagan won a second term overwhelmingly in 1984 despite the fact that the unemployment rate was at 7.3 percent in October of the election year. (It had been at 10.3 percent as recently as March 1983.)

The best way for Obama to counteract the “are you better off” question is to have evidence to point to that things are turning around — that whether or not you believe the country was on the brink of an economic catastrophe you see signs that your financial situation is improving and have reason to hope the future will be brighter.

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests he’s not there yet.

No, President Obama is not there yet and unless the economy improves very quickly, he will go the way of Jimmy Carter.