NYT Reporter Desperately Searches for Signs of Economic Progress to Prevent Republican Victories

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

That fervent prayer by Harold of "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" as he desperately hopes that sound of the approaching footsteps don't belong to a sadistic guard named Big Bob comes to mind when reading a New York Times article by Michael Luo. In Luo's case he is hoping that the Republicans won't gain significant victories in this November's elections. He bases his glimmers of hope on what he perceives to be signs of economic progress. It isn't a very strong peg upon which he hangs these hopes but it is pretty much all he has:

The economy is slowly recovering but remains on its sickbed, and most signs still point to a rough cycle for the party. Political analysts expect Republicans to make gains — possibly significant ones — in Congress in November, threatening to retake the House and maybe even the Senate.

But digging deeper, beyond the national numbers, reveals at least a few glimmers of hope for Democrats — still fairly distant and faint, but bright enough to get campaign strategists scanning the horizon and weighing the odds.

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

That is because different parts of the country are recovering at different rates — and, in a bit of electoral good luck for the Democrats, some of the areas that are beginning to edge upward more quickly, like parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, happen to be in important battlegrounds for the House and the Senate. 

Whew! So that means that Big Bob, uh, I mean electoral disaster won't be arriving in November? 

And here Luo sounds a bit too anxious in his ardent desire to find economic upticks to counter the big bad Republicans:

A detailed examination of House and Senate seats in play, alongside state and local economic data compiled by Moody’s Analytics for The New York Times, yields some surprising bits of encouragement for Democrats but also adds color to the overall daunting picture confronting the party. At the very least, any such signs of hope are certain to affect the strategies being worked out now in campaigns. 

As for the unemployment rate, eh, it should have no effect on the election results. Or so Luo hopes so don't mention the year 1930 midterm elections results to him:

While much attention has been paid to the nation’s stubbornly high unemployment rate, political scientists have found little correlation between that measure and midterm elections results. Instead, they have found more broad-based indicators, particularly real personal disposable per capita income, which measures the amount of money a household has after taxes and inflation, to be better gauges. 

Another hope is that voters have short memories:

Historically, political scientists have found that voters’ memories tend to be short. Larry M. Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton, has studied the impact of economic conditions on presidential elections and found that it is the second and third quarters of the election year that matter most. 

And if the economy is still in the tank come November? Not to worry. Reality doesn't really count. Only imaginary perceptions:

In the end, however, the ultimate deciding factor will be voters’ perceptions — not how well the economy is actually doing, but how well voters believe it is doing. 

In the end, Michael Luo still doesn't sound all that confident about keeping the Republicans from big gains in November. Despite his brave front, one can still picture him with eyes squeezed shut as he hears the ominous economic reports approaching and fervently reciting the political equivalent of:

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

Please don't let it be Big Bob!

2010 Congressional New York Times Michael Luo

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