Polls suggest the economy is a dominant issue for voters in 2008, and Republicans are faring badly among voters in this current populist phase. The public just doesn't trust Republicans in general; and specifically, the public doesn't find the Republican's basic economic message as compelling as the Democrat's more populist economic message.
Oddly, according to Associated Press polling in April, that may or may not have an impact on actual voting.
About two-thirds of those making under $100,000 annually attach extreme importance to the economy, as do nearly six in 10 earning more. Six in 10 Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats do the same.
Yet those who have become extremely concerned about the economy since last fall show no significant difference from everyone else in backing a presidential candidate. Both groups divide about evenly between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, and between McCain and the other Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In addition, those who expressed most concern about their personal financial situations have done just what those less concerned have done — they are a bit likelier to back McCain now than they were to prefer a Republican candidate in last November's AP-Yahoo News poll.
I'm not sure what, if anything, that means for Republican candidates in 2008. To some extent, asking people to state preferences and intensity this early is a pretty imprecise exercise. But another data point suggests the economy may still be a salvageable story for Republicans. Via Greg Mankiw, a chart of Real GDP over the past 10 years.
A great deal of public concern about the economy may not be driven by actual macro-economic crisis, but by media obsession with the narrative Democrats have been driving for some years now to create the impresson that the "economy is not working" for working Americans. The narrative didn't produce results for quite some time, but it is paying dividends in conventional wisdom now that the media has turned their attention to the economy and begun to look for an easy story to tell.
It's worth pointing out that there is a great deal of statistical sleight of hand in the Democrat's economic story.
We can hope that the economy strengthens, that the publc values long term economic freedom above short term economic nannies and that the media grows a bit more skeptical of the easy story. But hope is not a strategy and it certainly is not good marketing. Democratic economic narratives have been allowed to develop and blossom for years now with relatively little organized pushback from the online Right. It will be necessary to point out counterfactuals like these to drive them back.
Now I went back and checked the numbers for the past 50 years and didn't find a single case of a recession—as calculated by the National Bureau of Economic Research—that started with or contained two straight quarters of positive GDP growth, much less three quarters.