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Obama May Be Hoover Instead of FDR

By James Piereson, Weekly Standard - July 18, 2011

The disappointing employment report made public on July 8 provided fresh evidence that economic growth is slowing and the state of the economy will be the central issue in next year’s presidential election. As if in anticipation of the jobs report, David Plouffe, senior political adviser to President Obama, said shortly before the bad news was released, “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate; they’re going to vote based on: How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?” 

Plouffe has a point. Several incumbent presidents have been reelected in the face of abnormally high unemployment. Ronald Reagan won reelection in 1984 with an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent and, most famously of all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 despite a jobless rate of nearly 17 percent. On the other hand, Gerald Ford was defeated in 1976 when unemployment stood at 7.7 percent, and George H.W. Bush lost in 1992 with unemployment at 7.5 percent. In his memoir Six Crises, Richard Nixon attributed his narrow defeat in 1960 to a sudden upsurge in unemployment in September and October of that year.

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