JOB ONE…. Following up an earlier item, the McCain campaign really has to hope that cultural insecurities are running high, because it’s going to take a lot of attacks on arugula to overcome the state of the economy.

According to the Labor Department’s latest jobs report, the unemployment rate hit a five-year high last month, with employers slashing 84,000 jobs, worse than economists were forecasting. It’s the eighth consecutive month for job losses, and both June’s and July’s numbers have been revised down. To date, the nation has shed 605,000 jobs in 2008.

Under the circumstances, these results are not exactly a ringing endorsement of Republican economic policies. And as Kevin noted, the juxtaposition of this week’s convention in St. Paul and this week’s Labor Department’s jobs report couldn’t be much worse.

[The latest employment numbers make] it all the more remarkable that the Republican Party just held a 4-day nationally televised convention with dozens of speakers and managed to only barely even mention the economy. John McCain finally got around to it last night, briefly mentioning “tough times” and then devoting a few sentences to the subject, but that was about it. And his heart pretty obviously wasn’t in it even for those few sentences.

If McCain loses in November, that’s going to be one of the biggest reasons why. Sarah Palin aside, he simply doesn’t sound like he understands what’s really going on out in the outside world, and when he’s forced to talk about it he has nothing to say. Republican orthodoxy forbids any serious response — forbids, in fact, even the possibility of an effective response other than yet another round of tax cuts — so it’s best to mutter a few bromides and move on. And that’s what he does.

It doesn’t help that McCain recently described the fundamentals of our economy as “strong,” and argued that we’ve seen “great progress, economically” under Bush’s leadership.

Responding to the same jobs report, and noting Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the top 1% of wage earners, the McCain campaign responded, “The American people cannot afford a Barack Obama presidency.”

One wonders if the communications office was able to keep a straight face while typing that one.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.