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Matthews: Jobless rate will determine the next President

Let me finish tonight with this.Sometimes being a political pundit is the easiest thing in the world. Want to know who's likely to win the battle between

Let me finish tonight with this.

Sometimes being a political pundit is the easiest thing in the world. Want to know who's likely to win the battle between President Obama and Mitt Romney? No brainer. Look at one number, one eensey beensey number: the jobless rate.

It's 8.2 right now. That's the starting point. 

So the question is where it's going to be on the Friday before the election, that first Friday in November?

Here's my Hardball line. Ready, get set, go!

If the jobless number for October is up near 9, Obama's got real, deep trouble. Anybody says different is either out of it or simply covering for him. Anywhere near 9 percent--in the high 8 percents--it's bad, bad news for the President. 

What's a good solid number? Again, I told you, this is easy.

If the jobless number drops to 8, he's got a good case to make that he's got things headed in the right direction. 

I know, being a Democrat, Obama and his people will be talked into not bragging about such a number. Remember how Al Gore booted it in 2000 by not taking credit for the economy for fear it might offend someone? But the fact is that people who pay attention to the news, the economic news, will feel the President is on solid ground again if it's down to 8 percent, down from its peak of 10.2 percent in October 2009. 

So we'll all be watching the three big hour-and-a-half debates between Obama and Romney. They'll be great theater. But both candidates will be operating in a economic situation that will allow one to attack and the other having to defend. It will decide it as much as anything either of them say.  


Because everything Romney had to say about Obama having "failed" will rise or fall on whether the jobless number is rising or falling.

Because everything President Obama says about having done the right things as President will depend on whether he's making real progress in creating jobs, or he's not.

I can't think of anything that will distract from that eesney beensey number.

8, Obama wins. 9, Romney wins.