Israel isn’t the only issue on which Carter could be a liability. From a marketing perspective, it’s hard to conceive what political genius thought it would be wise to present a president beset by sluggish economic growth and the prospect of a one-term presidency alongside a failed one-term president whose downfall was economic malaise. After all, like Carter, Obama struggles from the perception that he can do little to revive economic prosperity, and the Romney campaign has had a field day paralleling the dim economic realities of Carter’s tenure to the country’s current woes. Nominating conventions are symbolic affairs, but presumably this is the kind of symbolism that the Obama campaign would wish to avoid.
The Carter comparison is actually more devastating than it may appear because by many measures Carter’s was the more successful presidency. As George Mason University’s Veronique de Rugy points out, a survey of job gains under 12 recent presidents shows that Obama is dead last in job creation. Far more jobs were lost than gained under Obama, and there are now 300,000 fewer Americans in the workforce than when Obama assumed office. By that standard, Obama would need the economy to generate 2.1 million new jobs every month until January 2013 just to match Carter’s economic record. In other words, Barack Obama isn’t Jimmy Carter — he’s worse.
As a historical matter, there are many similarities between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Both were politically inexperienced candidates who proved ill-equipped for the presidency. Both had grand visions of governance that floundered amid poor stewardship of the economy. The trouble for Obama is that those similarities are not exactly ringing endorsements for a second term, and so it’s all the more curious that they will be on such prominent display as the president officially kicks off his reelection bid.
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