Analysis: Did Cars Save President Obama?

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There's been a ton of talk since last night about how much the relatively low unemployment rate in Ohio and the descending rates in Michigan and Wisconsin helped President Obama with his so-called "Mid-Western firewall."

The ironies couldn't be thicker:

The President's bailout of major car companies soon after he took office offended many Democratic voters.

“I feel they should’ve gave the people the money to spend to keep the companies going,” retail clerk Linda Webb told me in 2010, while pushing her grocery cart out of the Walmart in Jackson, Michigan. “But they did the opposite. They gave it to all the big people that didn’t need the money. If they handed me money like they handed them, I could’ve went and bought a car — it would have kept them in production.”

In 2010, the hiring spurred by the bailout wasn't quite so easy to see, but since then, it's set in.

Then there's the industry itself -- not exactly a natural Obama ally.

The auto industry has had its own reasons to resist the Obama presidency, including implementation of regulations requiring cars to get a minimum of 55 miles per gallon by next decade.

But at the end of the day, a prediction that a top Democratic official made to Transportation Nation back in June proved true: swing states jobs numbers, he said, would be "determinative" in the fall.  Here's what we wrote then:

Buoyed in part by automobile hiring, employment in swing states looks far better than the nation as a whole, providing a possible path to victory for President Barack Obama, who bailed out the big three auto manufacturers with a clothespin on his nose.

In Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, the auto industry has been adding jobs at rapid clip,  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So that even though things were really bad in those states, they’re now less bad. Which is good news for the President.

“We know that this thing is going to be super tight,” said a senior Democratic official. “But we are absolutely of the belief that the swing states jobs numbers will be determinative in the fall.”

By now, the national narrative is well known. May’s employment numbers were meh, signalling a heap of trouble for the President. “He is the underdog,” opined NPR’s Mara Liasson, who then ticked off things that could only make the electoral picture worse for the Democrats: the Euro crisis, the Chinese economy, etc. That pretty much sums up the conventional wisdom.


In the swing states, things are markedly better than they were two years ago, and in many of them, the employment picture is a whole lot brighter than the nation as a whole.

Here's the rest of that post.