But the reigning prescription for Democratic success - more jobs - is off the mark. And while robust economic growth would surely help Obama's party, the Democrats are likely to lose seats regardless.
In the post-war era, midterm election outcomes are much more strongly related to economic growth than the unemployment rate. Based on our analysis of midterm elections from 1950-2006, every 1% increase in real disposable income in the year before the election saves the President's party an average of four to five seats.
By contrast, there is almost no relationship between unemployment and the number of seats that the President's party gains or loses.
So economic growth in a general sense is more important to the election than unemployment. And economic growth closer too the election date is even more important,
One thing works in the Democrats' favor: When voters use the economy to guide their decisions on Election Day, they are myopic. They rely heavily on economic trends occurring in the months just prior to the election. Voters do not, it seems, ask themselves if they're better off than they were four years ago; they ask if they're better off than they were last year.