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September 2, 2012

Column: In presidential race, economy still matters most

(Continued)

All this should be enough to overcome my original theory about the economy being the only thing that mattered, I figured. Then a spate of new polls in the last week seemed to show I was correct in the first place. Neither the debate over how to reform Medicare nor women’s rights appears to have changed concerns about joblessness and all the other pocketbook problems. In fact, the race is skin tight, with a Washington Post/ABC News survey this week noting that 8 in 10 voters give the economy poor marks. Romney leads slightly — 47 percent to 46 percent — though white seniors oppose the Ryan Medicare reform plan nearly 2-to-1.

Can Obama survive such historically devastating opinion? Are the voters still willing to lay much of that blame on his predecessor, George W. Bush? Most experts agree the troubles all started with Bush. But Obama critics legitimately contend that the former junior senator from Illinois failed to take the right steps to get the economy back on track early, spending too much time, effort and political capital on revising the nation’s health care system.

If the “George did it” crowd prevails, it would put to rest what used to be the operative political truism — simply that whatever happens on the incumbent’s watch, good or bad, is his responsibility. History tells us that the adage is undeniable. The Great Depression wasn’t Herbert Hoover’s fault, but he was forever blamed.

When Election Day arrives, that adage may change.



Dan K. Thomasson is the former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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