It's still all about jobs.
As the race for the White House picks up speed, there is a long list of issues on voters' minds—from immigration to abortion to race to the rising pile of student debt. And as the economy climbs back from the depths of the Great Recession, both political parties are eager to take credit for the recovery in the job market.
In the first Republican presidential debate last week, current and former governors were quick to cite jobs gains as part of their record of success, including former governor Jeb Bush (Florida, 1.3 million jobs claimed) and current governors John Kasich (Ohio, 350,000 jobs), Chris Christie (New Jersey, 192,000 jobs) and Scott Walker (Wisconsin, who cited a drop in the jobless rate from "over 8 percent" to 4.6 percent.)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed the biggest jobs gains, saying his state had created 1.5 million jobs "during the worst economic time this country's had since the Great Depression, while the rest of the country lost 400,000 jobs."
Democrats, on the other hand, can point to the ongoing economic recovery and take credit as the party in power during the recovery, a point underscored by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech in January.
"Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan and all advanced economies combined," he said.
To find out how well each party can lay claim to job creation and worker well-being, cnbc.com analyzed state level economic data comparing the growth in overall employment since late 2009 to see how red and blue states have fared.
Read More America's Top States for Business 2015
Based on the numbers, Republican candidates have a somewhat better story to tell.
Though widely referenced by commentators and the media, the definition of red and blue states is somewhat fluid. There are a number of ways to identify a state's politics color, from Electoral College votes for presidential races to voter registration, congressional delegations or control of the statehouse and governors' mansions.
For this analysis, we chose the percent of the popular vote from each of the two major parties in each of the last five presidential elections, weighted by the average vote margin. (We ignored third party candidates.)