The GOP's political nightmare: Running against a recovery

It may be an overstated political cliché that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. But you’re almost certainly losing if you’re explaining, ahead of time, why the economic boom you’re expecting on your opponent’s watch shouldn’t be attributed to your opponent. One lesson of the volatility of the past dozen years is that fairly or not, the president’s party tends to get the credit or blame for the economy—or at least for the way people perceive the economy. Biden is visiting swing states this week to sell American Rescue Plan’s focus on giving Americans vaccines and money, but with economists across the ideological spectrum forecasting explosive growth, many veterans of the 2009 stimulus wars believe the economy will be all the sales pitch the bill needs.

“We’re going to see some fairly amazing economic numbers, and I imagine for the next few years, people will look around and say: ‘This is pretty darn good!’” says American Enterprise Institute fellow James Pethokoukis, a conservative economist who believes the Biden stimulus is somewhat excessive. “I’m sure Republicans will try to spin this, and I have long-term concerns myself, but the reality of a crazy strong expansion will be tough to spin away.”

Democrats seemed to have learned a bunch of lessons from the backlash against the Obama stimulus—that it’s important to sell your own product, that it’s even more important not to trash your own product, and that it’s supremely important to make sure your product works as well as possible.