Barack Obama's hopes of holding on to the White House have received a major boost from new figures showing that the US unemployment rate has dropped below 8% for the first time since he took office in January 2009.
The US added 114,000 new jobs in September, in line with expectations. But August's disappointing jobs figure was dramatically revised upwards from 96,000 to 142,000, helping to bring the unemployment rate down to 7.8%.
"Today, I believe that as a nation we are moving forward again," Obama told a raucous campaign rally in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday a few hours after the figures were published. "This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office."
Acknowledging that the economy was not out of the woods yet, he added: "Now, every month's figures reminds us that we have still got too many of our friends and neighbours struggling to pay the bills ... But now is certainly not the time to talk down the economy and score a few political points. It's a reminder that this country has come too far too turn back now."
The numbers really shouldn't be anything to get excited about - 7.8% unemployment isn't great (and the actual unemployment rate is significantly higher), but it is if you are Barack Obama. Worse unemployment figures would have been catastrophic to Obama, who has amazingly been beating Romney with numbers over 8% (no President has been re-elected with unemployment numbers like that). Again, this fits into the thesis that Obama's economic strategy at least points in the right direction, despite it being poorly executed.
The Republicans are in full scale meltdown, claiming Obama rigged the numbers (seriously) as they have to deal with the new political reality that Romney's debate performance probably doesn't really matter that much any more.