The U.S. presidential race is widely seen as a referendum on Barack
Obama's handling of a still-struggling economy. Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney's campaign is recycling a rhetorical tactic from a
past era designed to amplify popular discontent over tough economic
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says Barack Obama
cannot hide his administration's economic record.
"We are not going to hear evidence and facts about how people are better
off [under President Obama]," said Ryan. "You see the president cannot
run on his record."
The argument echoes a question Ronald Reagan asked during his 1980
presidential campaign that defeated then-President Jimmy Carter when he
asked, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"
Republicans hope voters will deliver the same verdict this year.
Democrats argue today's high unemployment rate and sluggish economic
growth are the lingering effects of a deep recession that began months
before Obama took office, during a Republican administration.
Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did," said Former
President Bill Clinton during his Democratic Convention speech last
night. "No president - not me or any of my predecessors - could have
repaired all the damage in just four years."
But most Americans have yet to see their finances improve.
"We are in a very slow recovery," noted Gary Hufbauer of the Peterson
Institute. "Wages have not gone up, and unemployment is still pretty
high. Against these earlier expectations, things do not look so good."
Will voters punish President Obama for a tepid economy, or will they
give him credit for helping the nation weather a devastating financial
crisis? Both Republicans and Democrats are gambling that the answer to
those questions will lead them to victory.