Given the economic albatross that is flopping limply on Barack Obama's chest, I honestly do not know what a smart and effect reelection campaign would look like. I don't have to wonder what a lousy one looks like. The Administration has been trying out one theme after another. Each one seems to whimper out with Jay Carney trying to find the right words to defend it.
The latest weapon to be deployed by the campaign is the "during Romney's tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of all states in job creation," as Media Matters puts it. That's fair enough. One has to wonder, however, whether it occurred to someone in the campaign that this would invite the Romney campaign to compare the unemployment rate in Massachusetts during his tenure (4.7% was his best number) with the national unemployment rate now (8.2%). From U.S. News:
"Only President Obama, who has failed to meet his own goal of 6 percent unemployment, would have the audacity to attack Mitt Romney's record of creating jobs," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Thursday morning. "We're happy to compare the 4.7 percent unemployment rate Mitt Romney achieved in Massachusetts to President Obama's weak record any day." The Romney campaign says his state's jobless rate fell from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his governorship. The national unemployment is about 8 percent, according to the government.
Who wins that one?
Presidents are always hostage to events and forces beyond their control. President Reagan might deserve some credit for the booming economy in 1984, but he was lucky regarding the timing. President Bush (41) might have sailed to reelection, sparing all of us the ordeal of a stained dress, had the early nineties economic recovery come a few months earlier.
It's not easy to say whether the U.S. economy would have done better if President Obama had managed to spend trillions more or (as Paul Krugman has suggested) if the Martians had invaded. If the business cycle were cycling, he ought to be in pretty good shape. A deep recession ought to be followed by a robust recovery. This one wasn't.
This last week's economic reports were nothing short of dreadful. GDP growth has all but stalled.
The gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2012 was revised down to 1.9 percent from the original 2.2 percent. The previous quarter saw a respectable growth rate of 3 percent; the revision means an already worrisome slowdown just worsened by about 14 percent.
The anemic nature of the economic recovery, as the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis notes, can be measured by the fact that GDP growth in the past five quarters has been 0.4 percent, 1.3 percent, 1.8 percent, 3 percent and now 1.9 percent.
What everyone has been focusing on is the employment picture. It isn't improving.
The United States gained a net 69,000 jobs in May, for an average of 96,000 over each of the last three months. That is down from a 245,000 gain on average from December through February. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent in May from 8.1 in April, though largely because more people began looking for work. And there was more bad news: job gains that had been reported in March and April were revised downward.
Any hope that economic recovery would life Obama's sails is pretty much gone. It's hardly all the President's fault. He cannot fix what is wrong with Europe nor remedy the depressing news from China. He might bring the leaders of Congress together and try to hammer out some package of emergency measures. It would help if he had established strong relationships with a number of major committee chairs, but that just isn't our man. Even if he did this, it would be unlikely to help much. But at least it would look like he was attending to the public business.
Instead, as the depressing jobs report hit the presses, Obama was off for six major fundraising events. Therein lies the problem. Barack Obama is superb when it comes to selling himself. It is not easy to see that he has ever been good at anything else. If he has any proposals for solving our economic and fiscal problems, he is keeping them in reserve.
So here's a good joke that I saw on some web site and lost track of:
What is a recession? When your neighbor loses his job.
What is a depression? When you lose your job.
What is a recovery? When Obama loses his job.