For years, Republicans have marveled at President Obama’s success in blaming former President George W. Bush for the nation’s problems, particularly its economic problems. Now, as Obama begins his sixth year in office, that success may finally be coming to an end.
Of course Obama inherited an economic mess. He deserved time to fix it. The GOP clock started at one year; after 12 months in office, would Obama own the economy? The public’s answer was no, the president should be given more time.
After two years, did Obama own the economy? The answer was still no. Americans still responded positively when Obama blamed his predecessor.
After three years, the story was the same. And in 2012, Obama ran for re-election by stressing the severity of the problems he inherited and arguing that a single four-year term just wasn’t enough time to fix things. He won handily.
Now Obama is starting year six in the White House. Does he finally own the economy?
Some polls suggest things haven’t changed. A Washington Post survey last month found that 50 percent of those questioned said Bush is more to blame than Obama for the state of today’s economy, and 38 percent said Obama is more to blame. (Seven percent blamed both equally.) The figures are pretty much the same as they were two years ago.
But Republican pollster David Winston, who works closely with the House GOP leadership, has tried to get at the question another way. The names “Bush” and “Obama” are so politically loaded that people sometimes retreat to party corners at their very mention. So Winston has been asking this instead: “Which is causing more problems in the economy? The policies of the past? Or the policies of the present?”
When Winston asked the question in November 2012, 53 percent of those surveyed said the policies of the past were causing more problems, and 44 percent said the policies of the present.