I talked to John King the other day about President Obama's reelection strategy in this down economy. Take a look at the video above and/or the transcript below:
John King: The data is just simply not good for the president. And then on top of that, that's looking backward on the data we already know, today markets are talking about a bear market, financial markets don't look good, the housing market don't look good, the president can't look out at the horizon and see anything to be optimistic about, can he?
Fareed Zakaria: It looks pretty grim. There's a famous model that was designed by a professor in economic at Yale, Ray Fair, which predicts outcome of presidential elections. He's never been wrong in 40 years. And the basic inputs are economic growth, unemployment, inflation you know your basic economic data that the theory is that the campaign itself is actually irrelevant, that you give me the economic data and I will tell you whether the incumbent will get re-elected. Well, if you use those kinds of models and those numbers, the situation looks very tough for the president.
John King: And this one issue. The president answers the question, 'No, people aren't better off than they were four years ago.' This is in one issue on which you would say he's in absolute agreement with his chief nemesis politically, that would be the House Republicans. Listen here for the majority leader, Eric Cantor: "The president said yesterday that people in the country are worse off than they were when he was elected. We feel the same way. The economy continues to sputter." Is the president's only hope to say it's not all my fault, it's their fault too?
Fareed Zakaria: I don't think that's going to be as convincing. I think his hope is probably the tack he's taking to say, 'Things are very bad; they're bad because of the very broad forces beyond our control, the collapse of Lehman, the financial crisis, the global financial crisis, Europe and the euro zone crisis. But here's the issue, I have a plan. I have a plan to help get us out of this. And that is my jobs plan. And I have a way to pay for it. And the Republican Party, on the other hand has no plan.'
He has to draw that distinction and he has to hammer home the idea that he has a set of proposals that are powerful that would take immediate effect that would help Americans and the other side doesn't. I don't think spreading the blame around or complicating the issue is going to help as much.
Elections are referendums. And there has to be referenda on something. If it's not about the plan, it's going to be about him. And, frankly, I think he's better off it being about a comparative analysis of the plans rather than just a referendum on him.
John King: And how complicated is it? How hemmed in is he by the fact that a lot of the long-term things that need to be done, whether entitlement reform, dealing with debt, other structural issues in the U.S. economy might be at odds. Those long-term challenges might be some would say certainly at odds with his short-term political needs?
Fareed Zakaria: I think the sensible thing to do economically is pretty clear, which is to have a short-term plan that has some stimulus for the economy, and various forms, tax breaks, extensions of unemployment, a very significant infrastructure bill because that is what you get. What the government can do more than anything else is rebuild America and put people to work and a debt reduction plan.
And you do it altogether so that you reassure the markets that while spending some money now, you're going get your fiscal balances in order. Politically this seems impossible. And that is the dilemma I think that the president is grappling with that he's not able to get any of that stuff done that would actually have an impact on the economy because there is so much political gridlock and opposition in Washington that he can't manage to make it happen.