This Insider likes to remind readers that in politics, bad gets worse. Well, it was easy to miss with all the coverage of the Donald Trump endorsement of Mitt Romney, and Tom Brady’s wife, Gisele, organizing a prayer chain for him to be victorious in the Super Bowl, but President Obama received bad news that couldn’t get much worse in the Congressional Budget Office report that came out this week. All the information was negative, but the worst was a GDP projected growth rate of 2.2 percent this year.
Last year’s growth rate was 1.7 percent. Combine that with another Insider axiom — in politics, what’s supposed to happen tends to happen — then from an economic standpoint, Obama is in more trouble than any of his predecessors in the past 50 years. No president has won reelection with less than 2.5 percent growth in the year preceding the election since Harry Truman. And in the year of the election, no president has been reelected having less than 2 percent growth, and it was Eisenhower who had 2 percent growth in 1956. With a growth rate this year of 1.7 percent, Obama will test the historical boundary of how low GDP growth can be and still allow a president to be reelected.
Obama doesn’t have other classic symptoms of a losing incumbent, such as a primary challenger, and so far there doesn’t seem to be a threatening third-party candidate on the ballot who could erode his support, but he would be making history to be reelected with the lowest growth numbers in the modern era, and with unemployment numbers and gasoline prices that could also be unprecedented.
If the Republican nominee has a credible economic plan or even a bold plan to achieve robust growth, such as 5 percent, Obama will have a very hard time defending the status quo, and he will not be credible suggesting that he can make the economy substantially improve.
P.S.: I’m already fielding questions about who the Republican vice presidential nominee will be. While this mindless, premature, exasperating question has not caused me to assault anyone yet, I'd like to take this opportunity to preempt more pointless, brain-cell killing inquiries. For the record, I hope our VP selection is mostly cynically poll-driven. If poll data confirm that a potential nominee;s presence on the ticket would clinch a swing state such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or a few others, I would be for that person. I hear that Santorum’s people are already trying to angle to get him the job. He is a good example of my plan; if polls in August confirm that Santorum would absolutely deliver Pennsylvania's electoral votes, I could be all for him as our VP candidate. In the meantime, let’s not talk about it.