Ahead of Friday's critical jobs report, a new poll finds more Americans blame President Obama than his predecessor for continued economic woes.
Forty-eight percent of likely voters blame Obama's policies for the nation's economic condition, compared to 47 percent who fault former President George W. Bush, according to Rasmussen Reports.
Although the difference is small and within the margin of error, the poll marks the first time in Obama's presidency that more people blame him than Bush for the economy.
Obama's 48 percent also shows a three percentage point increase over the past month, according to Rasmussen.
The shift in perceptions is a troubling development for the Democratic Party, which had hoped to show economic gains over the summer to give some lift to their midterm campaigns.
The White House has repeatedly tried to inoculate the president from economic blame with the message that Obama inherited a bad economy from Bush, and has made difficult, unpopular decisions to turn it around.
In a speech to the AFL-CIO, Obama made the case that the problems he faces are the result of Bush economic policies.
"We're not going to go back to digging the hole," he said. "We're not going to go back to the policies that took Bill Clinton's surplus and in eight years turned it into record deficits."
But Republicans have been quick to note that promises made early in the Obama administration about stimulus, bailouts and jobs have not come to fruition.
"The president of the United States and his chief economic advisers said if we pass the stimulus package, unemployment will be a maximum of 8 percent," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Fox News. "Unemployment is still at an unacceptable level and far higher than they guaranteed the American people it would be if we passed the stimulus package. So I'm not sure we have to even discuss it more. What they said would happen did not happen."
The poll showing that more voters blame Obama to Bush indicates a dramatic shift among Americans.
In May, according to Rasmussen, 62 percent said Bush was to blame for the bad economy, while 27 percent blamed Obama.
The president, sounding frustrated, struck a sharply partisan tone with the mostly friendly labor crowd, saying voters must reject Republican fiscal policies in November.
"You've got these folks who drove America's economy into a ditch. And for the last 20 months, we put on our boots and we got into the mud," Obama said.
"And we've been shoving that car out of the ditch inch by inch, and they've been standing on the side the whole time watching, telling us, no, you're not pushing hard enough, and you're not doing it the right way," he said. "Not lifting a finger to help."
The Labor Department on Friday will release unemployment figures for July -- and White House officials already are forecasting an increase in the nation's 9.5 percent unemployment rate.
That is bad news for Democrats, who had been hoping the summer would bring positive economic trends to carry them forward to November. Instead, Obama is casting the election as a choice -- between the economic policies of the Bush era, and his own.