Upside Down Economics

Despite much better economy, networks blamed President Bush more than President Obama for financial troubles.

In 1992, then-candidate Bill Clinton completely altered the momentum of the presidential race by pushing a theme saying: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The U.S. economy remains front and center in the presidential race 20 years later. 

But how the news media cover that economy can have enormous impact on the election. When President George W. Bush ran for reelection in 2004, the economy was once again a major media focus. Bush was skewered by the press over jobs as the voting neared, despite a 5.4 percent unemployment rate. Over and over again, the economy was mentioned negatively in regards to Bush – often by saying it was what his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, should campaign on.

When Bush triumphed, he did so despite the media coverage.

Eight years later, that has changed. President Barack Obama oversees a far worse economy than Bush did. Even Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press wrote that “Economic growth has never been weaker in a postwar recovery.” Unemployment stood at 8.1 percent in September, close to 3 percent higher than it had been under Bush at the exact same point in his term.

GDP was downgraded to 1.3 percent and unemployment and underemployment combined to put 23 million Americans in awful financial straits.

Yet the broadcast networks haven’t told that story. News outlets that hammered Bush for economic conditions in 2004 seldom called Obama on far worse results in 2012.