A popular current narrative holds that President Obama’s second-term prospects are flickering, almost extinguished because of his problems at the IRS, etc. But that ignores a more fundamental rule governing presidential ratings and influence: the performance of the economy.The long, long winter of America’s economic discontent is finally thawing, just in time to help restore Obama’s footing. If presidents are judged by how the economy performs during their time in office, how will Obama fare?
Judging by these charts showing private- and public-sector job growth from President Reagan to Obama, pretty well. We remember with most fondness presidents Reagan and Clinton, and both enjoyed robust job growth over their terms in office. George W. Bush? Not so much, and notice how jobs evaporated in his last year in office.
Now check out job growth under the elder President Bush. To Bush 41’s everlasting chagrin, he was voted out of office just as job growth was beginning to recover, a fact Bush loyalists cite to say that the Clinton economic boom was seeded in his predecessor’s term. And finally note the job growth trend line in Obama’s fifth year; it is about where it was at the end of George H.W. Bush’s fourth and final year: pointing up.
The economy today seems less fragile and poised for more steady growth. Unemployment is at the lowest level in Obama’s term; the stock market and housing starts at the highest. The headwind of scandal may be no match for the tailwind of the economy.