You expected...what? The truth? Not from these guys. And when one of them. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, actually told the truth on Face the Nation yesterday and said he couldn't say whether people were better off than 4 years ago, the light speed call from the Obama campaign to the governor's office probably set some sort of record.
A day after saying, no, the country was not better off than it was four years ago, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley reversed course on Monday and said, yes, indeed it was.
"We are clearly better of as a country because we're now creating jobs rathare than losing them," O'Malley, a Democrat, said on CNN's Starting Point. "But we have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession. That's why we need to continue to move forward."
He then motioned to a panel that included Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, among others. "Is there anyone on this panel that thinks we've recovered all we lost in the Bush recession? Clearly we're moving forward, we're creating jobs, unemployment is down, job creation is up. And that job creation would not happen without the president's leadership."
Best to get your talking points set before you go on air, Marty.
Ronald Reagan didn't have this problem in 1984 because the economy had already begun to roar back. Clinton's "recovery" from a nearly non-existent recession wasn't an issue.The economy in 2004 was working in Bush's favor as well.
Obama is the first president since Carter where the "better off" question resonates. But it will take careful framing from the Romney campaign or the notion that the Bush recession is still to blame will also resonate. It's still a 50-50 proposition with voters as to how much blame for the lousy economy goes to Obama - no matter the reality. That's why I expect the Romney ads on the question to include an acknowledgment -- as Romney and every major GOP speaker did during the convention - that Obama inherited a mess but he's had 3 1/2 years to fix it (2 years of total Democratic control of government) and has made very little progress.
For that reason, the "better off" question won't be quite the devastating attack it was for Reagan against Carter. But careful framing will show Obama's policy failures and failure of leadership as well.