Who Will Get Credit For a Stronger US Economy in 2016? Democrats? Republicans? No One?

 

061015huffpo

In my new The Week column, I argue that the economic recovery could well be a major plus for the Democratic presidential nominee:

Mitt Romney couldn’t beat President Obama in 2012 when the jobless rate was almost 8 percent, how can the next Republican nominee beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 when the unemployment rate could be under 5 percent? That’s the big question Republican presidential candidates must ask themselves. And the unpleasant political possibility for the GOP’s White House hopefuls is that the improving U.S. economy is, well, “likeable enough” for voters to give Democrats four more years in the Oval Office. At the very least, the economy might be such a strong tailwind for Democrats that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or whoever else the GOP puts up would need to run a near-flawless campaign to win.

I also respond to some obvious counters: What about the labor force participation rate? What about weak wage growth? What about Al Gore in 2000? But over in the Twitterverse, ace Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Zumbrun offers an additional caveat:

061015zumbrun

This is a good point, and one I have explored previously. Since the recovery has taken so long to gain traction — and it still isn’t red hot by any means — might the public give no one credit? Maybe Americans are viewing the economy more organically, something that with time has healed itself — regardless of Washington intervention like the 2009 fiscal stimulus or the Fed’s QE policy. Right now, for instance, President Obama is two points in the red on his economic approval rating [see above chart], though the trend has moved noticeably in his favor since late 2014. So not much credit there, yet. Another year and a half of jobs gains and wage growth, however, and Obama’s economic rating might be clearly positive. One could interpret that as the public giving Obama credit for steady, though unspectacular economic stewardship.

But can Clinton, assuming she’s the nominee, capitalize on those good feelings? As I mention in my The Week piece, Gore in his presidential campaign failed to really press hard the point that his economic agenda would be a continuation of Bill Clinton’s. (Maybe the “ick” factor of running on a de facto third Clinton term played a role.) Compare that with George Bush in 1988 and his “no new taxes” pledge, a ringing and memorable endorsement of Reaganomics. It already seems clear that Hillary Clinton will continue Obama’s inequality and “shared prosperity” message, a theme that seems to have some voter resonance. And this is a powerful message, too: “The economy collapsed under the last Republican president. Why would we ever want to go back?”

Certainly, Republicans used that approach for years, reminding voters of a failed Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. Here is Phil Gramm at the 1992 Republican National Convention:

At the New York convention, [Bill] Clinton was like a used car salesman peddling his vehicle for change. The wax job was shiny, the hubcaps sparkled, the upholstery was spotless, the paint was new. But when you look under the hood, he’s peddling a model from the 1970’s: a Carter mobile with the axle broken and the frame bent to the left. It was a lemon for the nation; it was a lemon for the nation in the 1970’s when it sent inflation through the roof and income through the floor, and it is a lemon for America today.

Anyway, if Obama’s economic approval ratings are up, and Clinton is promising to continue his approach (public investment, higher taxes on the rich, pro-middle class policies) along with new ideas of her own, then, yes, I think the economy is a potential tailwind for her. It is then up to Republicans to persuasively argue that (a) the recovery could have been better with be GOP policies and — far more importantly — (b) the US is poorly positioned to be as prosperous in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. My conclusion in The Week:

Instead of trying to persuade Americans that the Obama recovery is worse than they think, Republicans would be better off talking about the future and how all Americans can flourish. During the recent UK election, the Labour Party did its best to badmouth the so-so economy under the Conservatives. The Tories managed to win by persuading middle-income voters they had the better agenda for the future. There is a lesson there for Republicans.

Published in Economics
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 9 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Who will get “credit” for the economy in 2016? Absolutely, positively, no one. Why is that? Because the nation’s fears have moved on from the economy to fears over the nation’s place in the world.

    Thank the retiring baby boomers for stoking this fear.

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The national economy or the people’s economy?

    • #2
  3. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    James Pethokoukis:Certainly, Republicans used that approach for years, reminding voters of a failed Democratic president, Jimmy Carter. Here is Phil Gramm at the 1992 Republican National Convention:

    … when you look under the hood, he’s peddling a model from the 1970’s: a Carter mobile with the axle broken and the frame bent to the left. It was a lemon for the nation; it was a lemon for the nation in the 1970’s when it sent inflation through the roof and income through the floor, and it is a lemon for America today.

    Yabbut, we lost in 92.

    The unemployment rate might be a semi-useful proxy for how voters feel about kitchen table finances, then again, it might not.

    Part-time employment with little-to-no wage growth is better than unemployment, but it ain’t so great, even if prices are flattish.

    If Mitt Romney couldn’t beat President Obama in 2012 when the jobless rate was almost 8 percent, how can the next Republican nominee beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 when the unemployment rate could be under 5 percent?

    As Herman Cain might say, you’re mixing apples and oranges. Running against an incumbent with the full support of his party is completely different from chasing an open seat.

    Hillary isn’t the default choice of swing voters (who had already voted for Obama) that Barry was in 2012.

    • #3
  4. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Palaeologus:

    If Mitt Romney couldn’t beat President Obama in 2012 when the jobless rate was almost 8 percent, how can the next Republican nominee beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 when the unemployment rate could be under 5 percent?

    As Herman Cain might say, you’re mixing apples and oranges. Running against an incumbent with the full support of his party is completely different from chasing an open seat.

    Hillary isn’t the default choice of swing voters (who had already voted for Obama) that Barry was in 2012.

    Put it this way: If Romney can lose in 2012 with a  poor jobless rate, Hillary can most certainly lose with an improving jobless rate. Which should show you that, at the current time, the economy as a big issue in presidential elections doesn’t matter that much.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @IWalton

    The income distribution issues cuts in the Republicans direction, as does government corruption, ineptitude, rot disinterest crony capitalism.  Then there’a foreign policy, disintegration, urban chaos.   If the Republicans can’t go on the attack with the material these crooks have given them they deserve to lose. … Not really; the democrats deserve a few decades in the wilderness.   The economy?  It’s who makes the best case most aggressively.  The economy is stagnant and getting more stagnant and faces challenges the electorate won’t understand, but it must be addressed because the next president will face monumental problems and must set the stage for what will be necessary.

    • #5
  6. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Credit?  More like blame!  The rich are getting richer, high fiving each other and doing happy dances on the way to the bank while the rest of the country wants to know where this recovered economy everybody is talking about is since we ain’t seeing it.

    • #6
  7. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    60% of the GOPs message needs to focus on foreign policy (ISIS, Iran, Israel, Russia, etc.) as this is the Republicans strong point, why W won reelection and is currently HRC’s legacy.

    20% should focus on the worst post-recession economic recovery in history with a healthy dose of tax policy and national debt,

    10% should focus on immigration,

    The remaining 10% should be spent redirecting the MSM/press back to the above 3 issues.

    • #7
  8. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Obama is two points in the red because there is no economic recovery – the average person knows it, and the Fed knows it too, which is why interest rates are still near 0% even though we are 7 years into the so-called “recovery.” In fact we are due for another recession. What are we going to do then when interest rates are already at historic lows?

    Things are going to get worse, maybe much worse, and not better prior to the 2016 elections. Forget about “credit” for a mythical recovery; Republicans will share the blame with Democrats because they bought into the same Keynesian nonsense instead of calling out our zombie economy for what it is. I guess it will be a victory of sorts that Republicans will demonstrate that they are no more clueless than Democrats, if not less so.

    • #8
  9. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    David Sussman:60% of the GOPs message needs to focus on foreign policy (ISIS, Iran, Israel, Russia, etc.) as this is the Republicans strong point, why W won reelection and is currently HRC’s legacy.

    20% should focus on the worst post-recession economic recovery in history with a healthy dose of tax policy and national debt,

    10% should focus on immigration,

    The remaining 10% should be spent redirecting the MSM/press back to the above 3 issues.

    In other words, the GOP should ignore the important issues and not talk about them at all.

    • #9
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.