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Transition 2012

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Economy Update: Analysts Say Best Message Wins the Race

by Newsteam Staff
May 16, 2012

A worker at Dole Food Company, spreads out coffee beans to be dried at the company's Waialua coffee and cocoa farm on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii November 9, 2011 (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters) A worker at Dole Food Company, spreads out coffee beans to be dried at the company's Waialua coffee and cocoa farm on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii November 9, 2011 (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters)

Increasingly positive economic indicators could work in favor of either candidate, depending on who gets their economic message straightened out first — it’s all about timing and messaging, analysts say.

Voters have consistently said the economy is their top priority and the newest USAToday/Gallup poll shows that while unsatisfied with its current state, they are increasingly optimistic about their economic future. While 71 percent of those polled say economic conditions are poor, 58 percent predict they will be good a year from now. More than a third of those surveyed report they are better off than they were a year ago, the highest number since before the 2008 economic meltdown, USAToday says.

The poll also shows numbers looking up for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who gets stronger numbers than President Barack Obama on the economy; 55 percent of voters say the economy would get better over the next four years if Romney is elected, compared with 46 percent who say it will improve with Obama’s reelection.

“We’re right back where we’ve been all along: The economy is a major issue, and it’s one which neither candidate has a serious advantage on,” political scientist Gary Jacobson told USAToday. “Romney gets better ratings because of his reputation as a CEO, and Obama is going to benefit from the fact that optimism is increasing… But it looks like it’s extremely close.”

Since positive economic indicators could work in favor of either candidate, voters may choose the candidate with the best message and the clearest plan for continued improvement.

If growth remains slow into the fall, it could hurt Obama, who has to better demonstrate he has a plan for moving the economy forward, former Bush adviser Phillip Swagel tells NPR, but Romney also needs to boil down his economic message to specific points voters can connect with.

Bloomberg’s Deborah Solomon says Romney has a long way to go on messaging. “Romney is campaigning on his business credentials and private-sector acumen, telling voters he’s the guy who will whip the U.S. budget into shape and restart the economy,” Solomon says. “If that’s the case, Romney should do more than give pabulum campaign promises. He should offer Americans specific details of how he’ll turn things around so that voters can decide if he’s the one to rescue the U.S. from what he called a ‘debt and spending inferno’.”

Obama’s message will have to be two-pronged, say the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake. “For Obama to win a second term, he will almost certainly have to pair the ‘Romney is wrong’ message with an ‘I was right’ message — proving that some of the policies he put in place have begun to make things better,” they say. But it could be a hard sell, according to Cillizza and Blake, since “none of Obama’s major economic proposals garner majority support.”

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on The Candidates and the Economy.

CFR’s Peter Orszag says programs to revive the U.S. economy should be tied directly to economic indicators.

U.S News and World Report explains that there is good news to be found in bad economic numbers.

At Marketplace, Rob Schmitz warns bad economic news in China could have an impact in the United States.

–Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich

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