It has been easy, to the point of being facile, for Democrats to draw parallels between the first terms of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Both inherited economic troubles and didn’t dispose of them immediately; both took their lumps in the midterms; both had sagging approval ratings the year before standing for re-election.
Reagan won re-election in a 1984 landslide. Ergo, Obama will do the same in 2012.
Obama has the advantage of facing a field of GOP contenders that has yet to impress, although it’s still rounding into shape. But the single biggest factor will be the economy — and on that score, Investors Business Daily has an extremely telling chart:
So, only once in this recovery has quarterly growth topped the worst quarter of the Reagan recovery. And the effects of compounding — with those big gains coming on top of big gains, while our small improvements build on smaller improvements — can’t be ignored. Likewise the very sharp downward turn in unemployment three decades ago — from a higher initial level, as Obama’s defenders often forget.
The chart goes with an editorial explaining the differences between the two recoveries, which I recommend. Those differences and others might be debated, but the political effect of a languid recovery versus a spirited one really can’t be challenged.
Is there still time for a sharper uptick between now and the 2012 elections? Of course. But, to help Obama’s chances, it will have to be very sharp and come very soon if it’s going to make up for the sluggishness we’ve seen.
– By Kyle Wingfield