Burning Question

Can Obama's 'blame Bush' strategy still work in 2012?

Many Americans still point fingers at George W. Bush for our economic turmoil, potentially giving Obama a pass on voters' No. 1 issue

In a big campaign speech in Ohio this week, President Obama made perhaps his most focused case that the economy is still struggling because he inherited a giant mess created by eight years of Republican policies. And according to a new Gallup poll, Americans don't necessarily disagree: Three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, 68 percent of Americans still blame our 43rd president a "great deal" or a "moderate amount" for the lousy economy. The "blame Bush" crowd includes 67 percent of independents and, surprisingly, 49 percent of Republicans. What's more, those numbers have remained relatively static since August 2010. Mitt Romney is running hard against Obama's economic record, but could Obama keep his job by running against Bush's?

No. Bush won't be on the ballot: It's nice for Obama that people still blame Bush for getting us into this mess, but that won't necessarily help in November, says Jon Walker at Firedoglake. First of all, 52 percent of Americans still hold Obama at least partly responsible for the economy, and many think he hasn't done enough to fix the mess he inherited. Then there's this inconvenient fact: "Bush isn't on the ballot this year, Obama is." And Romney was never part of Bush's orbit — making it hard for Obama to pin Bush's failures on Romney."Americans still blame Bush for the economy"

But these numbers are worrisome for Romney: The fact that voters are still blaming Bush means they're probably buying Obama's sales pitch, says Allahpundit at Hot Air: "Team America still reeks economically but [it's] playing slightly better, so why not let coach have another season to see what he can do?" That's bad news for Republicans, who want a pure referendum on the Obama economy, "not a choice between whether Mitt or The One is a better repairman.""More people still blame Bush for poor economy than Obama"

Don't read too much into this poll: I'm sure the lingering blame for Bush, especially from half of GOP voters, will "drive Republicans crazy," says Paul Waldman at The American Prospect. But clearly, much of the country blames both Obama and Bush. All this poll really reveals is "that Americans don't have a black-and-white view" of the economy, and won't be swayed by simplistic finger-pointing. The president and his GOP rival will have to work harder than that to make their respective cases.
"The state of the economic debate"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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