WASHINGTON -- It was reported this month that the unemployment rate has been climbing in at least four key swing states that could determine the outcome of next year's presidential elections.
The Commerce Department's latest third-quarter report said the U.S. economy grew by a sluggish 1.9% in the third quarter of 2019 -- not a good sign for the GOP as our nation prepares to enter another presidential election season, and to decide which party will take control of the House and Senate.
In Marinette, Wisconsin, for example, near the border of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, "a slew of major employers ... have closed," The Washington Post reported.
Food pantries in the area are packed with unemployed people, with at least 600 people being served in just the past six months.
Nationally, the picture is bleaker, according to new data released by the Labor Department.
"In more than 1,000 counties, or about one in three, the unemployment rate is higher than it was a year ago," the Post reported. "That includes all 72 counties in Wisconsin and all 10 in New Hampshire, as well as most in Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina."
Of the 10 most closely decided states in the last election, four of them -- Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina -- have been hit hard by rising unemployment, the Labor Department reported this week.
Notably, the economies in these states depend heavily on agriculture and manufacturing -- jobs that have been hurt by Trump's trade war tariffs on China and our other trading partners.
"Unemployment can be low, but if it's rising, that will hurt the incumbent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
"The key swing states are the ones that feel the most fragile right now. A lot of that is due to the trade war," Zandi said. "If anything moves against Trump, especially rising unemployment or higher Democratic turnout, it's going to be a lot closer."
Nowhere during Trump's presidency has the shifting political ground seemed more threatening to Republicans than in Virginia, where Democrats this week won control of both houses of the General Assembly, consolidating power "for the first time in a generation," the Post reported.
Political officials were stunned by the unusually high voter turnout across the state in what is being seen as a forecast of next year's presidential election.
An official at one of the polling stations in northern Virginia expressed surprise at the large turnout throughout the day Tuesday, telling us "it's like a presidential election."
"The sweep completed a dramatic political conversion, from red to blue, of a Southern state on Washington's doorstep," the Post reported.
The state's two U.S. senators, a majority of its House congressional delegation, and all three of its statewide officeholders are now firmly in Democratic hands.
To put the Old Dominion's political transformation into even sharper perspective, Democrats have carried the state in the last three presidential elections, and the GOP has not won a statewide contest there since 2009.
But there is an even deeper side to President Trump's troubles, and that is the gradually slowing economy.
The Department of Commerce reported that new orders for U.S.-made goods declined more than expected in September, while business spending on equipment was weaker than previously thought.
Factory goods orders fell slightly by 0.6%, after a slight dip in August, a Commerce report said Monday.
That suggests that U.S. manufacturing is softening as a result of the U.S.-China trade war.
Meantime, the president is badly trailing his two strongest political rivals in recent head-to-head matchups.
According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump is winning 95% support among voters who approve of the job he is doing. But nationally, he is badly trailing his strongest rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, by 17 points (56% to 39%). He trails Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by 15 points (55% to 40%).
Can Trump turn his failing presidency around? If he does, he will go down in the political history books as the greatest magician since Houdini.