President Obama turns 51 Saturday, but the birthday gifts are already pouring in. Employment numbers released today showed larger-than-expected gains in the workforce, with 163,000 new jobs added in June. Economists were predicting that number to come in at around 95,000.
But it wasn't all iPhones and Bulls tickets for the president. He copped an ugly, oversized holiday sweater, too, in the form of an unemployment rate that ticked up one-tenth of a point, to 8.3 percent, prompting the Romney campaign to call the news a "hammer blow to struggling middle-class families."
So a mixed bag for the incumbent, who will for the fourth -- and possibly final -- time Saturday celebrate his birthday from the commander-in-chief's seat. If there's going to be a fifth such occasion, the president will need a few more goodies to fall in his lap in the next few months. With that in mind, we're taking a look ahead at what might be going through his head Saturday as he blows out the candles on the First Cake.
Wish No. 1: More job growth. As much and likely more than anything else, a second Obama administration hinges on these big economic numbers trending upward. Same, in reverse, for the unemployment rate, which has not dropped south of 8 percent at anytime during his presidency.
Wish No. 2: Harry Reid to produce the mystery man who has allegedly been telling the Democratic Senate majority leader that Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for a decade. Twice now, Reid has claimed he was approached by a person who had done business with Romney's old company Bain Capital and told that the candidate didn't pay a nickel in taxes for 10 straight years.
"He didn't pay taxes for 10 years. Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," Reid told the Huffington Post. "But, obviously, he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?"
If Reid is telling the truth and, more importantly, his "source" is, too, it could look pretty good for President Obama.
Wish No. 3: A third-party candidate joins the race and voters actually notice, however unlikely. Mitt Romney has never been particularly popular with the Tea Party-wing of the GOP, so a wildcat campaign by someone rich enough to fund his or her own candidacy, but with the conservative credentials to rally dispirited partisans, could spell doom for the challenger.
Some potential, if unlikely, choices: Texas Rep. Ron Paul (He has said he won't do it, but there's still time for a change of heart); Michael Bloomberg (The lame-duck NYC mayor has the cash and will need a new job); Donald Trump (If there's one man who could touch off a tidal flow of moderates to the president's camp, it is The Donald).
Wish No.4: Mitt Romney goes overseas and makes a handful of cartoonish faux pas, distracting the public from a building controversy over the president's "You didn't build that" remark. "Happy Birthday, Mr. President, this gift has already been delivered."
In context or not, fair or not, Republicans were hitting the president hard on the comment, in which Obama attempts to explain what he perceives to be the root of economic success in America, namely, the hard work, support and tax money of your fellow citizens. But the comedy of errors that was Romney's overseas adventure stuck a fork, for now, in that storyline. (And with a decision on a running mate in short order, it could be a while before those attacks are revived.)
Wish No. 5: For whatever reason, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to be unavailable for his team's game in Washington against the Redskins Nov. 4. For all the indicators we look at to predict election outcomes, none has been as precise in the past seven decades as the so-called "Redskin Rule."
Simply stated, if the hometown 'Skins win their final home game before the general election, the incumbent or incumbent party is sure to keep hold of the White House. Newton is the young, superstar signal caller for Carolina, who is scheduled to lead his team into Washington's FedEx field the Sunday before Election Day and try to knock off rookie sensation Robert Griffin III's Redskins.
If he's not hurt, that is.
Wish No. 6: For those guys at the European Union to quit bickering and prevent a global economic collapse. Or, more wonkily stated, for European Union fiscal policy advisers in Brussels, with the acquiescence of the Germans, to settle on a course of action, unite behind it, then formulate precise and coherent plans to save the crumbling economies of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. Because if they don't, you can be sure a new wave of economic troubles will break on U.S. shores sooner than later.
Wish No. 7: A November Surprise! Something crazy. Perhaps Romney's tax returns go public after all and reveal a costly hair transplant written off as a work expense? Maybe the U.S. economy will return to full employment on the Monday before the election? A president can dream.