President Obama faces re-election amid a mixed and mediocre set of economic indicators. While there has been some improvement in the economy, most major indicators still show below-average growth.
The most instructive comparisons for Mr. Obama might be the two most recent presidents who had an economy that fell somewhere in this range during the election year, where the rate of growth was positive but below the long-term trend.
These conditions probably best describe the elections featuring the two George Bushes, in 1992 and 2004. George H.W. Bush failed to win re-election, while George W. Bush won a second term. However, another comparison that sometimes gets made – one between Mr. Obama and former President Jimmy Carter – is less appropriate. It’s as inappropriate as comparing Mr. Obama with former President Ronald Reagan, who benefited from exceptionally robust economic growth in 1984.
It would be hard to overstate what a disaster the economy looked like at this point in 1980. In many ways, it seemed to be melting down as badly as the economy was in September and October 2008 when the magnitude of the financial crisis was becoming clear. Let me give you a sense of what I mean.
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