Election 2012: Ever deeper into the primary season the Republicans go without having yet chosen a nominee. They will eventually settle on one, but in the meantime the GOP candidates need to keep the focus on the economy.
To paraphrase a slogan that helped one Democrat win the White House not so many years ago, it's still the economy, stupid. Today's widespread anxiety about economic conditions has made President Obama vulnerable to a GOP challenger who has superior ideas.
Coming into 2012, Americans began to feel better about the economy.
But attitudes have turned. Our own IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index fell from 49.4 in February to 47.5 in March, a decline of 3.8%. Meanwhile, the nation's six-month economic outlook index slipped from 50.2 in February to 48.8, a drop of 2.8%.
Our numbers are backed up by data from last week's primaries. According to Super Tuesday exit polls, voters said the economy is the most important issue in this election. In Ohio, more than half said the economy tops their list. In Georgia, 60% said the same thing. Six in 10 voters in Massachusetts also consider the economy the nation's chief political priority.
Farther west, exit polls found that less than half — 48% — of Oklahoma voters think the economy is the leading problem to be solved. But it's still the top-ranked issue there, followed by the federal deficit at a distant 32%.
In fact, the Associated Press noted, "The economy is the No. 1 issue for voters in every Super Tuesday state polled."
The GOP candidates have spent time, energy and money attacking each other. And maybe there's some wisdom in the idea that the assaults will toughen up the eventual nominee and prepare him for the Democrats' barrage that will come.
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But from this point on, they should also target the economic policies of the current president. They should cite examples of the damage his ideas have wrought, hammer on the data and link his programs to the hard-left ideology that produced them.
Obama is particularly exposed on: the jobs data, which, as we've said before, are worse than the official numbers; his appetite for redistributing other people's money and stubborn commitment to his concept of "fairness"; surging gasoline prices (a Washington Post poll found 65% of Americans disapprove of his handling of gas prices); rising health care costs caused by ObamaCare; sharp losses of wealth due to falling home values; smothering regulation; and a still-plodding recovery nearly three years after the recession ended.
Either Obama simply doesn't understand how an economy works, or he's so sure he's the smartest man in the room that he believes his "progressive" policies will override the laws of economics and bring prosperity.
Or he might even be such a hidebound egalitarian that he will try to achieve his version of fairness by forcing everyone to the same low standard of economic health.
In any case, for the present and future of the country, a replacement is needed who believes an economy should be unleashed, not harnessed by politics and bureaucracy.
The Republican who can convince voters that his plan is the most contrary to Obama's is the man who should win the nomination.