The mainstream media is bending over backward to describe this as a close election. Even when polling demonstrated a 5-10 point Obama lead, the media cautioned Americans that the election will tighten. It’s unclear why this would be the case with projections anticipating further decline in gas prices and continued job growth, but the media is assured that this election will become closer and closer. Suddenly, Gallup released a poll with questionable methodology and conservatives seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
But don’t believe the hype. Conservatives continue to grasp for any hope in this election, and you can see the desperation in the rhetoric employed by Romney supporters. Rather than tout an economic policy, Romney supporters are now attempting to link President Obama to Jimmy Carter.
This analogy is intriguing, as it comes at the same time that the Romney campaign is accusing Obama of misleading America by continuing to run against another former president, George W. Bush. It would seem odd to criticize running against the President 4 years ago while applauding a campaign against the President 32 years ago. It also doesn’t make much sense as an attack. As recently as 2009, President Jimmy Carter enjoyed a 69% favorability rating, while as recently as last September, George W. Bush still sat at or below 50%.
Conservative talking heads live in a dream world where Americans still hold a negative impression of Jimmy Carter. To Americans younger than 50, Jimmy Carter is no longer a failed president, but a well-meaning statesman who builds houses for the poor and negotiates peace treaties.
Comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter is a losing strategy, but highlights the GOP’s fear that the improving economy spells doom. Instead, attempting some rhetorical sleight of hand to compare the economy to the stagnant economy of the late 1970s. Or more accurately, to a revisionist view of the Carter economy, which experienced one quarter of negative 7.9% growth immediately prior to the election. Even though Jimmy Carter is unfairly tagged with the dip in this one quarter, Barack Obama doesn’t even have this kind of trouble. By contrast, the Obama economy has averaged north of 2% growth in every quarter or his Presidency if you exclude his first six months in office.
So this is a flawed strategy, and if you hear anyone repeat it, be prepared to fight back. And be ready for the next salvo, when Barack Obama is compared to James Buchanan.