(Springfield, MO) -- Economic woes continue to plague the Ozarks. Despite signs of a national economic recovery, the unemployment rate in Missouri remains stubbornly high at 9.3 percent. Unemployment in area counties is sometimes higher.
So what does all this mean for the political races this November?
KOLR/KSFX political expert Dr. Brian Calfano -- who is a professor at Missouri State University and host at KWTO-AM -- gives us some perspective.
He says the economic climate has certainly provided challenges for political incumbents this election season. There's now admission from the White House that the pace of recovery hasn't met expectations.
"I don't doubt that people are frustrated that the pace of recovery has not been faster under president's watch," says White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
"Greene and Christian County's unemployment rates are currently 8.3 percent, while Webster County's is 9.6 percent," says Dr. Calfano. "Taney County has among the highest unemployment in the state: 12.1 percent. The economy undoubtedly has an impact on state-wide elections."
Both Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan have made job creation central points in their campaign.
And jobs will certainly be a topic of conversation during KOLR10's Seventh Congressional District debate on October 7th at 7 p.m.
Though he's not on the ballot this November, what about Governor Jay Nixon's approval rating in this economic mess?
"The bad news for Governor Nixon is that a recent poll shows that the economy is the most important issue for 60 percent of the Missouri public," says Dr. Calfano. "The good news is that another recent poll -- this one out of Missouri State University -- shows that a majority of Missourians, including a majority of Republicans in the state, approve of Nixon's job performance. All of this suggests that people may more willing to hold state government leaders harmless in what is certainly a tough economy nationally."
There's even some good news for President Obama in the poll numbers?
"That's right," says Dr. Calfano. "A recent Gallup poll shows that 71 percent of respondents blame former President Bush either a moderate or great amount for the country's economic problems, while only 48 percent say the same about President Obama."
"The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are poised to lose a substantial number of seats in Congress this November," says Dr. Calfano. "However, a little history bears mentioning. This recession is best compared with the recession of 1982. Back then, Republicans, closely aligned with President Reagan's supply side tax cut plan, were facing both a higher unemployment rate than we face now, and a rising unemployment trend in the weeks leading into the fall 1982 election."
Dr. Calfano says unemployment peaked at roughly 11 percent in November 28 years ago.
"Regarding presidential approval, Reagan's rating leading into the 1982 midterms was around 42 percent, while President Obama's stands around 48 percent as of Wednesday. Like Obama, Reagan had to deal with a disillusioned public that felt recovery wasn't happening fast enough. Reagan's advice to his party: 'stay the course.'"
Where does all of this place predictions for Republican gains in congress this midterm?
"It likely makes for a really good horse race," says Dr. Calfano. "Republicans are certainly optimistic that they will make enough gains in the house to regain control from the democrats. Currently, Democrats have comfortable majorities currently in both chambers of Congress."
Does 2010 look a lot like 1994 for the Republicans?
"In some ways it does, especially with an incumbent democratic administration considered too liberal by some," says Dr. Calfano. "But, as the old saying goes, 'all politics is local,' so it's important to look at how vulnerable democratic incumbents really are in their home states and districts. Fully half of the Democratic seats in 1994 were in districts that had voted for the Republican presidential ticket in one or both of the previous two presidential elections. This time, just one third of democratic seats are in that kind of danger. All of this is to say that it remains too early to make any kind of accurate prediction about how these midterms are going to turn out for the two major parties."