Zakiya Ashford lost her job last year.
Since then, she has lost her car. She paid $9,000 for it and lost it with just $2,000 left to pay. The home where she lives with her husband and two boys, 14 and 6, is in foreclosure. Friday, she was sitting in the waiting room of the state unemployment office, waiting on some documents in an attempt to get a loan modification to save her house.
Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential field say they want to put Ashford back to work. It is in their slogans, speeches and signs.
But Ashford doesn't believe it.
"If the Republicans and Democrats and all of the politicians, if we can switch and make them see how I feel for just a month ... they might think different then," she said.
To be elected president next fall, national polls show, the winning candidate will have to offer a plan to do something about U.S. unemployment, almost 10 percent and, factoring in underemployment -- including those working only part time who want full-time jobs -- roughly 20 percent.
Creating jobs is the No. 1 issue. Last month, a poll by Winthrop University found 62.4 percent of likely S.C. Republican primary voters said the most important problem facing the country is the economy and jobs.
Of course, President Obama, the Democrat incumbent, has his own plans.
But, for now, in South Carolina, the state that holds the first-in-the-South Republican primary in January and is almost certain to go Republican on Election Day 2012, the focus is on what the GOP candidates have to say about jobs and the economy.
The GOP candidates all promise to "create jobs."
Consider the front-runners: Former corporate chief executive Cain points to his cleverly named "9-9-9" plan, which pledges to create jobs by reforming the tax code. Texas Gov. Perry boasts about the state of Texas, where he has been governor for 11 years, including the creation of 1-plus million new jobs. And former Massachusetts Gov. Romney boasts about his 160-page jobs plan.
All of them have the same goal: Put Ashford back to work.
"If I could get a job, everything else will fall into place," she said.
One way to judge a candidates' job-creating power is to look at what they have done while in charge.
Three GOP candidates -- former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Perry and Romney -- have worked as governors. All of them have pluses and minuses during their tenures.
Perry can claim the largest number of jobs created.
In January 2001, one month after Perry took office, there were 10,023,806 jobs in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In August of this year, the most recent month for which numbers were available, Texas had 11,216,227 jobs.
That's 1,192,421 new jobs in Texas while Perry has been governor, a huge number that Perry has not been shy of showing off.
"I want to take that success to this country," Perry told a raucous crowd at Bazen's Family Restaurant in Florence in August, a week after he entered the race.
But the new jobs in Texas did not keep up with Texas' growing workforce.
As a result, more people are unemployed in Texas today -- 1,036,563 -- than were unemployed when Perry took office -- 442,929. That means Texas' unemployment rate, while still below the national average, has more than doubled under Perry's leadership: 4.2 percent when he started, 8.5 percent today.
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