Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: How will the economy affect the upcoming elections?

Published: Sunday, Sept. 16 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this file photograph taken June 23, 2010, Frank Wallace who has been unemployed since May of 2009, displays his frustration during a rally organized by the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, in Philadelphia.

Associated Press

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Ultimately, politicians and governments are judged by citizens through the lens of how well things are going in their personal lives, especially with regard to jobs and economic opportunity. This raises some interesting questions:

Given the lousy national economy, why hasn't Mitt Romney yet been able to convince a majority of voters that he can do better than President Barack Obama?

Pignanelli: "Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame." — Laurence J. Peter. Since 1912, only four incumbent presidents were defeated in re-election. Of those, Presidents Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were ousted primarily because the economic turmoil originated during their term in office. They simply could not shake the blame — real or imagined — for causing or ignoring the misery. Although receiving mixed reviews for his actions, Americans understand that Obama is not responsible for causing or ignoring the country's current problems. Romney and national Republicans are further disadvantaged because they are unable to articulate a clear alternative response. Indeed, the powerful business organizations (i.e., U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Manufacturing Association, etc.) all supported the stimulus program. The bank and auto bailouts began in the Bush administration.

Because the economic recovery is so slow, Obama would lose to the sunny, optimistic "happy conservative warrior" with a strong vision that connects well with independents and moderate Democrats (i.e., Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Paul Ryan). Romney is not such a politician. Further, of all the speakers in both national conventions, only New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie emphasized the hard truth: "Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless." Romney did not follow up Christie's challenge with a bold plan and instead maintained his "blame Obama" strategy. A majority of Americans are not accepting this directionless message.

Webb: America is a center-right nation, at least in theory. But most citizens, businesses and states won't turn down government handouts when they're offered. Today, only about half of Americans pay any income taxes at all and about half receive government payments or subsidies in some form or another. So in a tough economy, why not vote for the guy who promises more and bigger government programs, more benefits, more government help in every phase of life and, best of all, tax those greedy rich people to pay for it?

It's a pretty appealing argument. Austerity isn't all that much fun. Trouble is, the Obama Way is not sustainable. At some point it will all come crashing down.

Obama certainly started with an economic mess. But he enjoyed a window of opportunity in his first two years, when Democrats controlled the entire federal government, to establish pro-growth policies, including sensible tax reform, rational entitlement reform, domestic energy production and prudent deficit reduction. Those measures would have produced solid economic growth by now.

Instead, he used his election mandate to pass a confusing, unpopular and expensive health reform law and enacted a gigantic stimulus package that threw money at every liberal program imaginable. He dramatically boosted the size of the federal government and exploded the federal debt, using all those federal programs and federal money to increase citizen dependency on government.

It takes sophisticated and aggressive communications to explain all of this to the American people so they will vote for the guy who promises that austerity will produce growth and prosperity. Romney hasn't completely broken through, but I still have faith in voters.

Utah's economy isn't exactly roaring, but it is doing better than most states and the nation as a whole. What impact will Utah's economy have on the major Utah races?

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