Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for vice president, delivered a sharply critical speech here today, telling thousands of supporters that they "weren't better off" than they were four years ago. "The Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now," he quipped, invoking the name of a president often regarded (at least by Republicans) as a spectacular failure.
Going back to Jimmy Carter might spark a few geezers, but not much more. The comparison is more a sign of desperation than anything else. Abortion is not working, war is not working, hiding your taxes is not working, racism is not working. What can we do next? Maybe something a little more abstract with a historic ring to it. Yes, recall the ghost of Reagan. Recall soft Carter, who had a hostage crisis on his hands, a bungled military mission, and a resentful intelligence community. Were you better off? But if the job report is solid on Friday, this approach will hit a wall. Also, Obama is likely to regain all the jobs that vanished when he took office. The "better off" game is really risky. It has, under the current economic climate, a high chance of backfiring.