Election 2008

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Economic Woes Affect Elections Past, Present

February 09, 2008 12:04 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
History has shown that a flagging economy can be a serious obstacle for the party in power come election time.

30-Second Summary

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Republican President George W. Bush approaches the end of his second term amidst economic troubles. To win this year's election, the GOP will have to convince voters that the party is not to blame. 

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates twice in January, and President Bush presented Congress with his economic stimulus package.

But those measures may be too late to do the Republicans much good in the 2008 elections.

At the time of President George H.W. Bush’s 1992 bid for re-election, the economy had begun to rebound from the 1991 recession. But Edmund L. Andrews of The New York Times writes that "job growth remained so slow that Bill Clinton was able to defeat Bush … by sounding alarms about a ‘jobless recovery.’”

Herbert Hoover’s policies were blamed for the Great Depression of 1929, opening the way for Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the commander in chief for a record three terms. That comparison was considered at length recently by the BBC.

Of course, an economic downturn can spell electoral disaster for Democrats too when they are in office.

Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980 after a term marked by high unemployment and inflation.

Grover Cleveland lost his 1888 re-election bid to Benjamin Harrison because Cleveland was not thought committed to protectionist policies—considered necessary in the face of cheap Western European goods.

Analysis: 1968 and 2008

Historical Context: Economic cycles and presidential elections

Reference: Election data

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