As the unemployment rate climbs to 10.2 percent, politicians and journalists have sought to empathize with struggling families. So one after the other, they've drawn on an image that conveys the pitch-perfect blend of folksiness, familiarity, and Main Street frugality: "kitchen table" issues. By which they mean painful economic straits:

  • President Obama, in a recent speech in Minnesota, said he understands the "quiet struggles" Americans "wrestle with at the kitchen table."
  • Stu Rothenberg at Roll Call ponders "If there are any issues that can rival, or in fact trump, kitchen-table concerns."
  • Kellyanne Conway on The O'Reilly Factor emphasizes, people are "really struggling around the kitchen table."
  • Taylor Marsh at the Huffington Post says "kitchen table issues could be the 2012 rallying cry."
  • Jed Babbin at Human Events says Teabaggers are essentially "kitchen table issue" voters.
  • Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says Bob McDonnell's electoral success was because he's "a master in talking about the things families were talking about around the kitchen table."

As President Obama gears up for a job forum in December to discuss ways to boost economic growth, expect more "kitchen table" issues to come.