The Republican Delusion
It is an article of faith among GOP activists and consultants that the blame for the Great Recession — or is it Great Depression II at this point? — will accrue to Barack Obama come November.
Why? Americans continue to overwhelmingly blame George Bush for the crappy economy. What exactly will change between now and then? From Gallup:
Gallup first asked this “blame assessment” question in July 2009, six months after Obama became president. At that point, 80% of Americans gave Bush a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 32% who ascribed the same level of blame for the bad economy to Obama. The percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range since. Meanwhile, about half of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, with little substantive change from then to the present.
Nevermind if this is a correct world-view, it simply is the way people feel. They are not going to easily hang the country’s economic woes around Obama’s neck. And this is without the full-on rhetorical attack we can expect from the White House come campaign season.
Mitt Romney is banking on portraying Obama as a dangerous incompetent who cannot be given a second term with which to destroy the country. Accordingly, Romney needs some sort of major crisis to flare up — ideally a domestic economic one, but a foreign policy blunder might do — to significantly move the needle. And when you take into account the Electoral College hammerlock Obama has on both coasts and Illinois, it becomes clear that Romney has a tiny margin for error.
Hence Romney’s heavy emphasis on telling the Rust Belt how he’d fix it. The catch is that most voters still do not think that Obama broke anything. In fact, it could be that the more Romney talks about the broken economy the more he reminds voters of why they elected Obama in the first place.
Update: Romney’s speech on economics in Ohio today was a complete dud. Nothing interesting or daring, just “things are bad, blame Obama.” If chief strategist Stuart Stevens stays on the job, I don’t think Romney stands a chance.