THE BLOG
05/15/2010 03:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama's Possible November Surprise

And what if he was right all along?
 
The Republican Party's electoral plan is largely based on a simple campaign message: President Barack Obama is a free-spending, retro Liberal that will drive the country towards "socialism" and eventual ruin.

In this construct, Republicans point to the nation's still sky-high unemployment rate as evidence that the President's policies have been a failure.
 
But what if the panoply of economic policies enacted by the Obama Administration to get the country out of the Great Recession -- the stimulus plan, the car company rescue, the serial extension of unemployment benefits, et al -- actually worked?
 
The United States has now had 3 quarters of economic growth. Specifically last month, over 290,000 jobs were created -- the fastest rate of growth in years. Looking forward, there is a general consensus among economists of all stripes, left and right, that 2010 will see continued GDP and accompanying job growth.
 
Considering that since the bipartisan TARP passed, most of the subsequent interventions in the economy were undertaken with minimal or no Republican Party support, can the GOP take political advantage of any good economic news?
 
In a provocative piece by Ron Brownstein in the National Journal, there could be a devastatingly powerful message that Obama and the Democrats can use in future elections:
 

If the economy produces jobs over the next eight months at the same pace as it did over the past four months, the nation will have created more jobs in 2010 alone than it did over the entire eight years of George W. Bush's presidency.

That comparison comes with many footnotes and asterisks. But it shows how the economic debate between the parties could look very different over time -- perhaps by November, more likely by 2012. More important, the comparison underscores the urgency of repairing an American job-creation machine that was sputtering long before the 2008 financial meltdown.

If indeed this recovery is as solid as even Alan Greenspan told ABC News in a recent appearance, it should not be a complete surprise. Running the American economy are a group of economist-historians whose major area of knowledge are the failures and successes of Great Depression government actions.
 
This group of scholars turned public servants -- like Ben Bernanke at the helm of the Federal Reserve (and a Republican) and Christina Romer as Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers -- spent long stretches of their academic careers focused on understanding the series of policy mistakes that took the country and global economy from the crash of 1929 to full blown depression by 1930.
 
That knowledge -- history, as Churchill told us over and over again, is powerful -- has guided not only the Obama Administration's policies, but also the unprecedented intervention by Bernanke's Federal Reserve, an intervention that saved the banking system, if not the American consumer, with massive injections of liquidity.
 
As we head into the November mid-terms, Republicans seem poised for significant gains in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But the increasingly positive economic picture could alter this dynamic.
 
While no one expects that the Democrats will make gains in November, the avalanche of Democratic loses currently expected may overstate the actual results.
 
There is a perfectly reasonable scenario where Democrats -- helped by the divisions within the GOP, heavily pressured from the right by the Tea Party movement -- hold a majority of the House and keep a respectable edge in the Senate as well.

In support of this thesis, the new AP-GfK poll shows a subtle shift in the public's voting intentions:

Americans want Democrats to control Congress after this fall's elections, a shift from April, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Saturday. But the margin is thin and there's a flashing yellow light for incumbents of both parties: Only about a third want their own lawmakers re-elected.

 
Political speculation aside, it is indeed good news that we've probably already made it to the other side of an economic chasm that, this time last year, threatened to engulf not just America but the whole world in another massive depression.

Now the question is whether voters will reward President Obama with a November surprise, or deliver a 1994-style rebuke that hands at least one House of Congress to the GOP and upends the rest of Obama's Presidency.