Election 2014: It’s the economy, stupid, not the GDP

Election 2014: It’s the economy, stupid, not the GDP

WASHINGTON, November 1, 2014 — The Commerce Department released new growth estimates Thursday for the third quarter; GDP rose at an annual rate of 3.5 percent.

According to polls, the economy is voters’ main concern. A Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll finds that 81 percent of registered voters consider the economy a “high priority” going into the election. A good economy is usually good news for incumbents.

By the numbers, the economy is doing very well. Not only is GDP rising at a healthy pace, but unemployment continues to fall and housing starts are up. The stock market continues to reach new peaks. President Obama should be hugely popular, and Democrats should be basking in his glory.

They are not. Obama’s approval numbers are low, and Democrats generally consider him toxic. Very few want him campaigning in their states, and some refuse even to admit that they voted for him in 2012.

Many Democrats are stressing their independence of Obama. Colorado’s Senator Mark Udall, who votes with Obama’s preferences 99 percent of the time, declared “I am the Senator that the White House fears most when they see me marching across the White House lawn,” and Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich, who votes with Obama 96 percent of the time, says “There’s times when I’m a total thorn, you know, and he (Obama) doesn’t appreciate it.”

So independent of the White House is Udall that he declared, “I will not give this president — or any other president — blank check to begin another land war in Iraq.” The White House was shaken to its foundations.

Why are Democrats so unwilling to stand with Obama, and why are they not trumpeting their economic achievements? The numbers are there, plain for all to see, yet many Democrats are running on the Republican “war on women.” The Denver Post, which generally endorses Democrats, endorsed Cory Gardner, Udall’s GOP opponent, in part out of disgust for Udall’s single issue campaign.

Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives. Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince. — The Denver Post

The refusal of Democrats to run on rosy economic numbers is due to a simple fact: Voters aren’t economists. They care about the economy, but not the numbers. The economy they care about isn’t the one in the numbers, but the one that they live in. And the economy that they live in isn’t rosy.

Most voters believe that the country is still in a recession. Economists measure a recession by looking at national income — GDP. Voters measure a recession by looking at their household income and how confident they feel about their future. For most people, real income has been stagnant or in decline for the last seven years and longer.

The middle class is being squeezed. They don’t care about the numbers; they know the numbers don’t apply to them.

In a speech at Northwestern University last month, President Obama touted the economic successes flowing from his administration’s policies and said, “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”

If “these policies” made most voters feel better off, Obama would have done Democratic candidates this year a favor. Instead, that line made him the star of Republican ads all over the country.

During Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, campaign strategist James Carville coined a phrase widely quoted as “It’s the economy, stupid.” In truth, it is and always has been the economy. But it’s the economy writ small, not large. “Economy” comes from the Greek word “oikos,” or household. For each voter, it’s “my economy,” not the U.S. economy; my household, not GDP; my job, not the unemployment rate.

The economy really is the most important issue going into this election. Unfortunately for Democrats, the economy is only doing well in ways that an economist would care about. For the rest of us, it is not, and that’s why Democrats are running on the “war on women” and away from Obama. Just as unfortunately for Democrats, they didn’t start running from Obama soon enough, and they can’t get far enough away.


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