There is an obsession with the manifest failings of prospective Republican presidential candidates. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. And passed healthcare reform when he was governor of Massachusetts that bears a strong resemblance to the reforms passed under President Obama. Who the heck is John Huntsman? Ron Paul is too old. And too libertarian. Tim Pawlenty can’t raise enough money. New Gingrich is a loose cannon and hardly the guy you’d pick to represent family values. Sarah Palin is Sarah Palin.
What is being missed is that it won’t matter. That’s at the root of two articles today. From Binyamin Applebaum at the New York Times:
Ten presidents have stood for re-election since Mr. Roosevelt. In four instances the unemployment rate stood above 6 percent on Election Day. Three presidents lost: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. But Ronald Reagan won, despite 7.2 percent unemployment in November 1984, because the rate was falling and voters decided he was fixing the problem.
The Obama administration hopes to tell a similar story.
To accomplish that the economy will need to turn around dramatically over the next fifteen months. We’d need to see a rate of job creation we haven’t seen in fifteen years or more.
Niall Gardiner, writing in The Telegraph:
There is no feel good factor in America at the moment. But there is a great deal of uncertainty, nervousness, even fear over the future of the world’s only superpower. This is hardly a solid foundation for a presidential victory for the incumbent. Even though we don’t know yet who he will be up against, Barack Obama could well go into 2012 as the underdog rather than the favourite he is frequently portrayed as. On balance we’re likely to see a very close race 17 months from now. But there is also the distinct possibility of an electoral rout of the president if the economy goes further south. “Hope and change” might have played well in 2008, but it is a message that will likely ring hollow in November 2012, with an American public that is deeply disillusioned with the direction Obama is taking the country.
If you interpret this post as looking forward to this, you’re misinterpreting it.
The 2012 election (just next year!) won’t be a referendum on George W. Bush or on Republicans, generally, or on the Republican challenger in particular. It will be a referendum on President Obama and the issue that will dominate all others, the economy, is likely beyond his control.
At root of this argument is the intellectual capacity of the voter. If you believe that they, or significant slug of them, simply vote “how do you feel” then Obama might suffer. That’s probably what got GHWB, rather than anything he did wrong.
And for what it’s worth, I did vote for GHWB’s re-election.
But I don’t really see this as an “all else being equal” election cycle. It has too much weirdness of its own. I mean, if “Obama’s goin’ down” I don’t think there would be a Palin news cycle.
I think this is a special situation, in which the voters are still dissatisfied with “all of the above” from both parties, and so the pendulum swing is not natural.
Maybe GWB is far enough gone that he can’t be blamed, but he isn’t so far gone that Republicans can actually be loved.
Yeah, I think you’re wrong on this, Dave. Because I think the voters sense a paradigm shift and understand that we aren’t going to go back to the “good old days” when we pretended to be rich but really weren’t.
Looking back at the housing bubble or the tech bubble doesn’t fill people with nostalgia so much as it fills them with unease, even a vague sense of guilt. It’s like remembering how fun it was to get drunk and end up in Tijuana — but not wanting to do it again.
Oddly perhaps the one thing a large plurality and possibly a majority do feel good about is Obama. Given the alternatives I suspect people will want to let that story play out. It’s a choice: Candidate A or Candidate B. And all the GOP has to offer are retread ideas we’ve already watched fail.
“It’s like remembering how fun it was to get drunk and end up in Tijuana — but not wanting to do it again.”
Care to share that story with us?
“And all the GOP has to offer are retread ideas we’ve already watched fail.”
That, of course is garbage. But is for another time. An airplane awaits.
Obama’s latest approval number is 53%. In the middle of two wars and a sideshow, a stalled recovery, and a paralyzed political process. He’s lost zero percent of his 2008 voters.
The GOP might make it up in enthusiasm, but with Romney? And will the Tea Party stay in the tent if Palin and Bachmann and Cain and the rest of the clown college are dumped?
It’s not a sure thing but I think it’s a 60/40 thing.
Actually I’ve never been to Mexico. But I’m told I had a lovely time in the Azores.
Its the economy stupid.
And given the bad news that has been coming in lately, we might be on the edge of another recession. If that turns out to be the case, Obama’s chances just went down. He could still pull it off like Reagan did, but my guess is if unemployment starts going up again, he is DOA.
“He could still pull it off like Reagan did, but my guess is if unemployment starts going up again, he is DOA.”
Won’t all this depend on whom the GOP picks?
Recall unemployment was decreasing for Reagan, if it is actually rising, no. They could put a goat up there and it would have a good chance of winning IMO.
I’ve got the Mexican story – six of us in a Karmann-Ghia from LA to Tijuana after the liquor stores closed.
You can toss all your analyses. GHWB was at 83% six months before the election. All we ended up with was a new name for fellatio. There are four major factors coming together next year.
1. 2010 was the biggest wave election in 70 years. It went all the way from the top down to dogcatcher.
2. We have had a number of traumatic crises, one after the other.
3. The Tea Party looks like one of the rare times in history – comparable only to abolition, suffrage, prohibition and civil rights.
4. We have a very unpopular massive restructuring in healthcare. Just proposing it in 1991 (Hillary Care) was a main factor in sweeping the incumbents out of power.
Reagan couldn’t win even the week before the election. Forty four states and a 9% margin of couldn’t win.
You guys are down in the trees and can’t see the forest fire on the horizon.
I think conditions heavily favor the GOP. Most voters are not well informed or policy wonks. They vote based upon how the economy is performing. Obama should lose badly. His one hope is the quality of GOP candidate currently running. The ones likely to attract independents, Romney/Huntsman, will not get Tea Party support. The pizza man, quitter and crazy contingent do not do well with independents.
Thanks, I needed a good laugh.
What a crazy meme cycle. If you haven’t been sleeping you know that the economy has been in a slow slog, and you would have expected some regression when stimulus and credits faded.
Why the play-acting at surprise?
Did you actually get sucked into the brokerage cheer-leading, that that the stock market rally signaled a recovering economy? Seriously?
No, you should have known that the rally was without fundamentals, and you should now have no surprise at a pullback, or even a full-blown correction.
(Geez, we’ve all been talking about a sick economy for a year or more, but let’s just pretend that we are surprised, because, you know, everyone is surprised this week!)
Dear Mr. Reynolds,
You scoff. The TP movement appeared rather suddenly and in every nook and cranny in the land. It has sustained and grown amazingly fast. It is not based in partisanship or a single narrow issue. It affected a sea change in the American political scene.
It is a considerably older group of people than those who are normally associated with transient causes. These people are well acquainted with the vicissitudes of life and are used to sticking with something until it is done. It is much less passion than grim determination that drives them.
Let’s poll them and see how many want to cut Social Security or Medicare. IIRC correctly the last poll done with these folks showed the biggest money-eaters in the budget were actually more popular with them than with the population at large.
Which means their central idea — cutting government — is in direct conflict with their actual preferences — more of the most expensive programs. And God knows they don’t want to raise taxes. Which is what comes of being a bunch of rage-o-holic old cranks having no idea what they’re talking about. These idiots think they’re going to balance the budget on foreign aid and the department of education.
Dear Mr. Reynolds,
I was hoping you actually had something to say other than a barely coherent spew of shit I’ve heard many times. Never have found much satisfaction in talking to parrots.
I note your lack of a counter to the point that the so-called Tea Party has a conflict between what it wants and what it thinks it wants.
I think you might be relying on second hand information about the Tea Party movement. I attended a small gathering on day one – April 15, 2009. Since then I’ve had an interest. I went to 3 or 4 stops on the “Tea Party Express” through the Southeast. Wasn’t really Tea Party – vendors and hoopla. But I did make it a point to talk to people. There is a genuine “Don’t Tread on Me” attitude there. These are heartland people. All shapes and sizes, some very successful and educated. They are not driven by the economic motivation that you seem to attribute to them. They’ve never been politically involved before. They always had a basic, if cynical, trust in government. But now they feel as if, in Anthony Codevilla’s formulation, there is a chasm between the ruling class and the country class.
Place not your trust in polls. I remember Harry Truman, on our little 7 inch TV, holding up that headline about Dewey Wins. Reagan was a dead duck until about noon on election day. Forty four states and a 9% margin served up a cold roast duck sandwich to the pollsters. George H.W. Bush was at 83% six months before the election. What we ended up with was a new word for fellatio.
I’m a geezer. If I have to take a hit to ensure the future of my children and my grandchildren then I’m front and center. The government types will always be able to parade a pathetic crank in front of the cameras to scream “I want mine!” Don’t come around my neighborhood, you old bat.
Ray-Polls consistently show that Tea Party supporters do not want Medicare cut. While your anecdotal evidence is nice, my anecdotal evidence is slightly different. I live in an area with heavy Tea Party support. While I think most are sincere in their anger over debt, they have few constructive plans. In particular, they avoid dealing with Medicare. If you have links to Tea PArty proposals making substantial policy proposals about Medicare, please provide them. Also, if you are not interested in data driven evidence, how will you evaluate people’s willingness to accept new policy?
I think this thread has already become unsalvageable, but I think you’re probably right that economic performance will be the primary determinant of who gets elected.
I don’t think the absolute numbers are nearly as important as the trend however. GW Bush (who I still think is much more comparable to Obama than any other past president) was re-elected in 2004 despite economic performance that was quite mediocre compared to voters’ memories of of the late 90’s., especially for voters in the bottom four quintiles. But there was at least improvement from where we had been in the beginning of the decade. If there is a substantial double-dip, Obama is probably toast.
That said, the Republican Party does have to put forward a candidate whom independents can pull the lever for (even while holding their noses). If in the odd chance they choose someone like Palin who plays very poorly outside of the Republican base, all bets are off.
A lot of the arguments advanced here are based on the implied premise that people are basically economic animals. This premise is inherent in almost all of the isms that have plagued us for centuries. “Greatest good for the greatest number” pretty well sums it up.
Are there greedy acquisitive people among us?. Most assuredly. Are most people that way? Not in my experience. Nor does even a casual knowledge of American history indicate that. Yes, the Left, as embodied in the Democratic Party, has made that assumption for a long, long time. I should know. I’ve been listening to it for more than 60 years.
The Tea Party movement is a very different animal than any we have seen in a century. The most common icon we see at the gatherings is the Gadsden Flag. You know. The one with the rattlesnake and “Don’t Tread on Me”. I’ll bet there have been more of those produced and sold in the last 2 years than in the previous 200.
You may continue to base your analyses on economics. Everybody to his own opinion. I differ.
Shorter John Personna: the stimulus really wasn’t supposed to work.
Oh and don’t confuse the stock market with the economy.
It is certainly play-acting to say that stimulus would make everything right in the world. None of us here believed it would.
And I agree with “don’t confuse the stock market with the economy” but we’ve all heard the rally put fort as evidence of economic health, by commentators in these parts, but certainly also in the MSM.