Every new datum on economic stagnation — such as Thursday’s Labor Department announcement that unemployment claims remain at a three-month high — increases the temptation to compare the 2012 presidential race to that of 1980. Both contests feature a Democratic incumbent elected on a surge of high hopes who must face the voters after four years of disappointment. In both cases, the economy is a drag on the president. In both cases, the incumbent has attempted to demonize his opposition in order to avoid running on his record. In both cases the challenger was regarded, at first, as easy to defeat.
It’s seductive to believe that 2012 will turn out the way 1980 did, with voters concluding that the challenger was not the ogre the president warned of, seeing him instead as the more presidential of the two.
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