GOP Govs Succeeding in Spite of Obama’s Econ Policies

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released disheartening statistics showing that the nation’s employers added many fewer than expected jobs to their payrolls in May.  The unemployment rate ticked up for the first time in almost a year, from 8.1% to 8.2%.  The stock market suffered its worst day all year, and the dip in Friday’s Dow Jones Industrial average completely erased 2012’s gains.

Democrats’ constructive response to these dismal numbers was to accuse Republicans of being happy the economy was tanking.

Hey Democrats: Republicans don’t want the economy to fail, we want you to fail.  Hoping for the economy to sink is Democrats’ métier: Democrats do better when there’s more poverty and misery, because that gives them more of an opening to step in and “help,” and more of an impetus to never let a serious crisis go to waste.

Republicans expect that the economy will struggle under your Democratic policies, and we take bittersweet satisfaction when our predictions are proven correct—because it proves we’re not crazy, as you accuse us of being—but we take no joy in mass unemployment and despair.

The less-discussed flip side of Democrats’ narrative is that pointing out glimmers of hope in the economy equals endorsement of liberal economic policies.

Lately the mainstream media have been claiming that modest economic recovery in Republican-led states puts GOP governors in a bind, because they can’t showcase their states’ success without bolstering the case for Obama’s reelection.

Take the recent Time article “A Tale of Two Economies,” in which author Michael Crowley writes, “The President’s campaign argues that the economy, while still troubled, is clearly and steadily improving…  And he has gained some unlikely support: Republican governors in critical swing states like Ohio.”

Crowley reports that Ohio’s John Kasich and other Republican governors in battleground states such as Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin are touting their states’ recent economic improvement.  He implies that these governors’ defense of their policies constitutes indirect campaigning for Obama.

There’s just one problem with this formulation: These states are improving despite liberal economic policies, not because of them.

These states have begun recovering only recently, and were doing crummy like the rest of the nation until their governorships changed parties midway through Obama’s tenure.  Yet Democrats are banking on undecided voters being dumb enough to think that their states’ economic reversals are due to consistent implementation of Obama’s plans rather than thanks to the partisan changes in their governors’ mansions.

Saying that newly elected Republican governors can’t point to recent growth in their states without giving Obama credit is like saying there’s no difference between federal and state government.  This line of thinking suggests that all 50 states move in lockstep and are entirely controlled by the decisions Congress and the president make.

The fact is that the economy is improving markedly in many states that recently switched from Democratic to Republican governors.  Ohio’s unemployment rate, for example, dropped from 9.5% in December 2010, before its newly elected Republican governor took office, to 7.4% in April 2012.  Wisconsin’s unemployment rate plummeted from 9.3% to 6.7% in the 16 months Scott Walker has held office. Michigan’s sunk from 11.1% to 8.3% under Rick Snyder. (Swing state Florida’s rate plunged, too, from 12.0% under fiscally liberal Charlie Crist to 8.7% under Tea Partier Rick Scott.)

Contrast that record with a state like Hawaii – which hosts one of the few governorships Democrats managed to pick up from Republicans in 2010 – unemployment has stagnated at 6.3%, and New York, which elected a new governor in 2010, but one from the same party as his Democratic predecessor, unemployment inched up from 8.2% to 8.5%.  Other Democratic-controlled states such as California and Colorado have witnessed piddly declines in their unemployment rates in the past year-and-a-half.

If I were a Democratic campaign strategist, I certainly wouldn’t push the nasty narrative that Republicans are glad the country is floundering, because voters in those recovering swing states aren’t suckers. And I certainly wouldn’t count on undecided voters in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and other recovering states being snookered into thinking that their modest growth over the past 16 months is due to Obama’s economic policies finally succeeding.

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