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Blame Bush theme reaches sell-by date

President Obama has spent much of his first term blaming former President Bush for the poor state of the economy. But as Obama himself predicted, this was never a narrative he could peddle indefinitely. Rather, the president gave it an estimated shelf life of three years.

A new poll conducted for The Hill demonstrates that Obama estimated correctly. According to the poll, which sampled 1,000 likely voters, 34 percent say Obama is the most to blame for the current economic woes, while 23 percent say Congress is the main culprit. 20 percent point the finger at Wall Street, and only 18 percent cite Bush.

Looking at Obama’s numbers in isolation, the picture remains grim for the president. 53 percent of voters say Obama has taken the wrong actions and has slowed the economy down, while 42 percent say he has taken the right actions to revive the economy, while six percent said they were not sure.

The poll oversampled Republicans, for a change. They outnumbered Democrats in the sample by 35 percent to 34. But Obama is under water with respect to his handling of the economy even in polls using a more typical sample in which Democrats outnumber Republicans.

Clearly, Obama needs a new scapegoat and the Hill poll makes clear that it must be Congress. As noted, voters blame Obama more than they blame Congress by a margin of 34-23. But 57 percent said that congressional Republicans have impeded the recovery with their policies, and only 30 percent overall believe the GOP has done the right things to boost the economy. So congressional Republicans are even deeper under water than the president. Moreover, according to the Hill, 26 percent of self-described (I assume) “centrists” cited Congress as most to blame for U.S. economic woes, compared to 20 percent who blame Obama.

Not surprisingly, then, Obama is now casting the election as a choice between two competing visions of how to proceed going forward. “What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take,” he has proclaimed. “This election is your chance to break that stalemate.”

It’s the smart move. But Romney will, of course, counter that there was no stalemate in 2009 and 2010 when Obama charted the economic course that has been so unsuccessful.

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