The Commerce Department today issued its figures on GDP. They suggest that the recession is winding down and that the economy soon will start growing.
The economy contracted at a 1 percent annual pace in the second quarter, according to the Commerce Department. That’s a big improvement over the first quarter, in which the dip was 6.4 percent. Most analysts expect positive growth over the remainder of the year, albeit at a modest rate, and more substantial growth in the first half of 2010.
This is an excellent scenario but it also represents a sobering prospect for Republicans, especially those who are becoming giddy over the fact that President Obama’s job approval rating has declined to a little above 50 percent. An economic recovery was almost inevitable, but Obama will get credit for it nonetheless, particularly because he took action that he’ll be able to link, however speciously, with the recovery.
On the other hand, it may be some time before Obama and the Democrats can garner the credit. That’s because even as the economy recovers, unemployment will likely rise. And even if growth becomes rapid, analysts expect the increase in jobs to be much slower.
There’s a good chance, then, that next year at this time, when it matters for electoral purposes, the economic picture will be (or appear) mixed. If so, the public’s view of Obama and the Democrats will probably be mixed too.
JOHN adds: Paul and I have been going back and forth on these issues for a while. We don’t drastically disagree, but my take has been a little more optimistic. Thus, while no one can argue with the proposition that a healthy economy–healthier, anyway–will make both President Obama and the Democratic Congress more popular, I don’t think the end of the recession will do anything like restore the voters’ honeymoon with Obama.
There are several reasons for this. One, I think most people have figured out that recessions come and go. Good times put everyone in a better mood, but some voters, at least, will be selective about where credit goes. Two, a great many voters are alarmed at the Democrats’ agenda, especially government medicine and cap and trade. Most voters believe, correctly, that these measures would hurt, not help, the economy. And the “stimulus” bill is rightly regarded with suspicion by just about everyone. These reservations won’t go away when the economy turns around. Three, and perhaps most fundamentally, governing has forced President Obama’s hand. As a candidate–especially, as a candidate almost wholly unscrutinized by the press–he could try to be all things to all people, with some success. But a mere six months in office have revealed the real Barack Obama: a hard-left liberal. Hence this survey from today’s Rasmussen Reports. Seventy-six percent of likely voters now classify Obama as a liberal, with a remarkable 48 percent terming him “very liberal.”
I don’t believe anyone who was generally regarded as “very liberal” has ever been elected President; not since Franklin Roosevelt, anyway. So I don’t think it is unreasonable for us conservatives to hope for the best of both worlds: a modest recovery in our 401Ks, and a new President in 2013.
PAUL adds: I don’t disagree with anything John says here. But some of what he says reinforces my concern. The public, as John says, now understands that Obama is a liberal, not a post-parisan, and half of it apparently considers President Obama vey liberal. Yet, in a terrible economy, his approval rating is at 50 percent or better. Thus, I think Obama has quite a good chance of being re-elected as an out-and-out liberal if, as seems likely, the economy is doing reasonably well by 2012.
John is probably correct that no one generally regarded as “very liberal” has been elected president since FDR, President Johnson was very liberal when elected in 1964, but wasn’t generally regarded as such. But it’s also true that no one generally regarded as “very liberal” has run for president as an incumbent presiding over an economy that was in good shape.
Remember too that all recent presidents who ran for re-election after an economic recovery were re-elected. In 1984, President Reagan won in a landslide that few would have thought possible for a candidate that conservative. In 1996, President Clinton won handily. If 2004 counts as this sort of an election, then President Bush made it three for three despite his growing unpopularity due to mounting problems in Iraq.
President Obama has made the audacious decision to try to become the man who transforms our politics by serving eight years as an openly left-liberal president. It’s not unreasonable to hope that voters will deny him that opportunity, but the way things are shaping up, neither is it unreasonable to think that they will grant it to him.
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