NEW YORK (
) - It wasn't supposed to end like this.
The final monthly jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offered investors an upside surprise in the number of jobs created and a slight uptick in the unemployment rate, but for most voters it likely came with a whimper instead of a roar.
"I think most people's decisions are already made by this point," said Fergus Cullen, a Republican political consultant in New Hampshire. "Even the president's supporters have to be disappointed with the economy and clearly that is what has made the race as competitive as it is."
Early voting has grabbed headlines in 2012 as an enormous number of voters across the country have headed to the polls to cast early ballots.
In a sense, it's already been Election Day for weeks now.
President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney made it clear in the closing statements of their final debate last week that each of them offered a "very different" path for the country to take. In other words, the candidates agreed that, after all the negative campaigning and months of stump speeches, voters should have an obvious choice for president.
Though there were still enough undecided voters that analysts and polling experts said were up for grabs to turn the election, it's difficult to argue that Obama and Romney can do much in the final weekend to fundamentally change minds.
The October jobs report could have offered that massive shift in voter opinion, if there was a substantial drift downwards in total nonfarm payrolls added, or, say, if the unemployment rate ticked down two-tenths of a percentage point, or more.
"The uptick in the actual unemployment rate could have been a huge last minute push for the Romney people, but the [171,000] jobs makes it a wash," said Michael Goldman, a Democratic operative in Massachusetts. "All this does is it reinforces predisposed biases of both of the candidates."
If the president loses, said Goldman, it's because "people have just decided that they want somebody else to do the job, not because of these [October jobs] economic numbers."
A clue that the campaigns remained unaffected by the latest jobs report is that spin from both camps failed to change meaningfully on Friday.