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Why The White House Is Still Sweating Bullets

These should be good times in the White House.  The GOP primary process has tarnished the party brand and shows no signs of producing a strong contender for 2012.  The headline unemployment rate dropped below 9 percent last month, and the threat of a 2012 recession, barring further madness in Europe, seems to have receded.  Foreign policy is generally working for the President at this point.  The strategy in Afghanistan isn’t flourishing, but the public has largely tuned that out.  On Iran, he can point to progress.  Asia looks good.

On paper, this is a White House in recovery; with a weak opponent and falling unemployment, the horizon looks brighter for the Obamans than at any time in the last six months.

But as this piece from the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out, the unemployment rate no longer fits facts.  Unemployment is dropping because people are dropping out of the labor market.  Using historical figures, the unemployment rate is 11 percent; if more people get back into the workforce as the recovery continues, the headline unemployment rate could actually rise — during the election year.  People feel worse than the numbers show, and they are likely to continue doing so for some time.  This is why the President’s poll numbers aren’t going up, and this is why next November is still very much up in the air.

The Carter team, we should remember, rejoiced when Ronald Reagan got the nomination.  He was too extremist, they exulted, and too weighed down with baggage to win a general election.  History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it plays enough tricks of that kind that the White House isn’t getting much sleep.

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  • Kris

    “People feel worse than the numbers show”

    This is why the media must do a better job of educating the hoi polloi and countering GOP propaganda. Young Ezra Klein is being surprisingly unhelpful.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I don’t think the primary is tarnishing the Republican Party brand. This is the way Democracy is supposed to work. All of the issues are being aired in a series of debates no nominee in American history has every had to face before. Vetting of the candidates is intense, weaknesses are being exposed, and answered or not as the case may be. When a nominee is chosen everyone will know exactly what they are getting, unlike the blank slate and empty suit of Obama.
    As for what Kris says above, Ezra Klein was educating the hoi polloi by exposing the numbers as lies, being used by the Obama Administration to deceive the public.

  • nadine

    Young Ezra Klein is pointing out facts about the economy, facts that conservatives have been noting for several years now. It’s only surprising considering the source. People do feel worse than the numbers show. Of course they do. The government is cooking the books. People know that. That’s why the right track/wrong track numbers are 20% to 73% (according to today’s RCP), the lowest ever.

  • Corlyss

    “The GOP primary process has tarnished the party brand and shows no signs of producing a strong contender. . . ”

    My historical memory about campaigns may be flawed, so I’m probably wrong when I think that the 2012 GOP campaign should answer the question concerning whether it was wise for the GOP in the early 70s to adopt the same kinds of “reforms” as the Democrats foisted on their nomination process. If the party can’t control the nomination process so that people smarter than primary voters vet the prospective candidates before they pick up the party standard, they deserve the ignominy into which they have fallen. The unending travesty of 12 Stooges touring the nation demonstrating how unworthy they are for the job is a prescription for disaster next November.

    @ Kris
    Is this the same Ezra Klein who functions as an low-level functionary for the Democratic party masquerading as a jounalist?

  • Kris

    Note to self: Never ignore that little voice that tells you to add a “[/sarc]”.

  • RedWell

    I’d say LBJ vs McGovern is as valid a comparison as Carter-Reagan.

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