Frayed Nerves, But Some Good Economic News

Image: A "Now Hiring" sign hangs on the door to the Urban Outfitters store at Quincy Market in Boston
A "Now Hiring" sign hangs on the door to the Urban Outfitters store at Quincy Market in Boston, Massachusetts September 5, 2014. U.S. employers hired the fewest number of workers in eight months in August and more Americans gave up the hunt for jobs, providing a cautious Federal Reserve with more reasons to wait longer before raising interest rates. Nonfarm payrolls increased 142,000 last month after expanding by 212,000 in July, the Labor Department said on Friday. The jobless rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.1 percent, partly because people dropped out of the labor force. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)BRIAN SNYDER / Reuters

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It is October, and while America is on edge with frayed nerves about terrorism and Ebola (thanks perhaps to media hype), there is a bit of good news about the economy. A new jobs report shows that the unemployment rate is now at 5.9 percent, the first time it’s been below 6 percent since summer of 2008. Companies are hiring at a healthy rate – 248,000 jobs in September – and the August numbers were revised up as well. As we debate whether a GOP wave is coming, it’s worth comparing that number to where we were in October 2010, when the jobless rate was at 9.6 percent. Yes, Obama’s less popular now than he was at the last midterm cycle, but the economy looks significantly rosier, at least by the numbers.

"These policies are on the ballot …"

How many Democratic candidates cringed a little yesterday when they heard Barack Obama say this: "I am not on the ballot this fall... But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot, every single one of them." Republicans running against Democratic candidates who have been trying to distance themselves from Obama - on health care, on coal, on gun control, etc - just got a big soundbite for their negative ads. And how helpful is that in states where Obama's approval rating is languishing in the 30s? The Washington Post called it "the 28 words that Democrats really wish President Obama didn't say today." The White House is banking that the individual policies that Obama was particularly plugging at yesterday's economic event --- a minimum wage hike, universal pre-K, and clean energy -- will mobilize the Democratic base before the midterms. And they’re popular, at least when they’re not connected with a political party. But GOP ad makers are grinning today. Many of the Democratic incumbents are trying to localize their races or focus on smaller wedge issues, while Republicans are trying to keep the campaigns nationalized. And lo and behold, the president went ahead and helped feed the "let’s nationalize" the elections. It will be interesting to see if or how many GOP campaigns decide to use this Obama speech in their paid media.

Nationalizing in North Carolina

Speaking of nationalizing the elections… We've seen it in Massachusetts and Colorado, and now Thom Tillis is doubling down on it in North Carolina. Tillis is up with another ad tying Kay Hagan to Obama's "weakness" on ISIS. A Marine mom implores the audience "we can't let our kids die in vain. We have to change our senator." And yesterday, Tillis said that Obama should ban travel from Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa. AND he’s tying Kagan to the Secret Service mishaps. We've written before that Republicans are going to take their attacks wherever the national narrative is: these are a lot of stark examples in the course of just a few days. And of course, the GOP is in a bit of a panic regarding Tillis, fearing their chances are slipping away. This decision appears to be an attempt to try and change the dynamic for him. He has struggled more than other GOP candidates because Hagan has successfully (so far) made the campaign as much about state Republicans and education cuts than anything else. So given where Tillis is right now, this may be the best play left in the playbook

Ain’t it a bitch?

Forget “warm bucket of spit.” Joe Biden took Biden-ness to the max last night during an event at Harvard University, sympathizing with the vice president of the school’s student body that having the veep title is “a bitch.” He got plenty of laughs for the comment, after which he quickly added “I’m joking, I’m joking. Best decision I ever made.” The gag is the kind of thing that will ricochet around cable and the web today as all Biden-isms do. But it’s also fuel for the exact phenomenon that makes the job a frustrating one for a guy who can be resentful of his image as a dopey Uncle Joe Syndrome: As the former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman is tackling quandaries in the Middle East, this is the stuff that gets pickup.

Indie spoilers

We’ve been tracking how voters’ anger at Washington is giving third-party candidates a chance to play spoiler in some key races. They are clearly serving as a "none of the above" proxy in what is easily becoming one of the most negative campaign cycles of the modern era. Never before have so many major campaigns have seen both major party nominees with an upside down personal rating. It is what's given rise to these surprise spoilers. NBC’s Andrew Rafferty profiles some of the outside-the-box contenders on ballots around the country – and looks at the impact some of them could have on some of the country’s tightest races.

Countdown to Election Day: 33 days

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