2008 February 03 Sunday
Recession Assures Republican Presidential Defeat In 2008

The war in Iraq already works against the Republicans. So I think a Republican victory unlikely if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee even before we consider the economy. But the economy is the biggest factor in a Presidential election. Hillary Clinton will be able to beat John McCain (assuming they are our sorry choices) because the economy in a recession works against the incumbent party.

Economists forecasting the 2008 race have given a slight edge to the Democrats. Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based forecaster, was predicting that the Republican nominee will garner 49 percent of the vote in November, based on recent income growth, unemployment and the power of incumbency. With yesterday's jobs report, that forecast will slip to as low as 47 percent, said Nariman Behravesh, the firm's chief economist.

The GOP contenders "are far enough away from the Bush administration where they won't be completely tarred by the Bush brush," he said. "But, nevertheless, there will be a tendency to see Republicans as responsible for this mess."

Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) pounced on the jobs data. Clinton proclaimed "a second Bush recession," while Obama blamed the news on "seven years of George Bush's failed economic policies."

But of course Hillary lies by referring to the 2000-2002 period as a Bush recession. On whose watch did the dot com boom happen anyway?

The incumbent party always loses in a recession. Always.

If so, Republicans will have a hard time outrunning Bush's shadow, said Ray C. Fair, an economist at Yale University who has modeled the economy's impact on elections for decades. Because of slow economic growth, Fair had already predicted that the Republican nominee -- weighed down by voter demands for change after eight years of GOP control -- could hope for only 48 percent of the vote. If growth turns even barely negative, the share drops to 46 percent, he said.

"There's no case in history in which we've had a bad recession and the incumbent party has won," he said. "Never."

I see this as an perhaps a silver lining in this recession. If John McCain gets the Republican nomination we are going to have a nutcase in the White House who at least sounds as dangerous as George W. Bush. Will he govern as crazily on foreign policy as Bush has and as McCain sounds? In The American Conservative see The Madness of John McCain: A militarist suffering from acute narcissism and armed with the Bush Doctrine is not fit to be commander in chief. Also, see Pat Buchanan's The Great Betrayal

Offering more “straight talk” on the Sunday before the Florida primary, John McCain made an arresting prediction: “It’s a tough war we’re in. It’s not going to be over right away. There’s going to be other wars. I’m sorry to tell you, there’s going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars.”

And then there's McCain's repeated attempts to pass an immigration amnesty:

On controlling America’s borders and halting the invasion through Mexico, McCain collaborated with Senate liberals in the McCain-Kennedy amnesty, which was rejected only after a national uprising.

When 190,000 Arizonans petitioned in 2004 to put Prop 200 on the ballot, requiring proof of citizenship before an individual could vote or receive welfare benefits, John McCain led the GOP congressional delegation in opposing it unanimously. Prop 200 passed with the support of 56 percent of all Arizona voters and 46 percent of Hispanics.

James Antle provides a much bigger litany of McCain's history of support for immigration amnesty:

No national Republican leader has a longer or more consistent record of advocating legal status for nearly all of the country’s 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants—not even George W. Bush. McCain’s nomination would push the politics of immigration to the left and potentially unravel the conservative consensus in favor of attrition through enforcement. “To build an immigration record that’s worse than Huckabee’s and even Giuliani’s takes some doing, but that’s what McCain has done,” immigration writer James Edwards argued. “McCain’s record is more in line with Democrat candidates.”

McCain wasn’t always so squeamish about the word “amnesty.” “Amnesty has to be an important part [of immigration reform] because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens,” he told the Tucson Citizen in May 2003. “I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible…”

So here's my question: Are we better off if McCain or Romney loses to Hillary? I see it cutting both ways. If Romney runs against Hillary Romney will pull Hillary toward immigration law enforcement positions. If McCain runs against Hillary his defeat will tend to discredit his favored positions among Republicans.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 February 03 02:29 PM  Economics Political

tommy said at February 3, 2008 5:20 PM:

John Ray's blog, Dissecting Leftism, has a must see post on McCain.

tommy said at February 3, 2008 5:21 PM:

Sorry, that url is here.

Ned said at February 4, 2008 5:19 AM:

Tommy -

The charges (about both McCain and Hillary) are explosive. Wonder if they're true?

HellKaiserRyo said at February 4, 2008 10:05 PM:

I'll say this:

It seems that at least the neocons are against low skilled immigration (or at least their representative think tanks):


Furthermore, pro-welfare state people are starting to oppose low-skilled immigration:


"In other words, I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration. But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular. If people like me are going to respond effectively to anti-immigrant demagogues, we have to acknowledge those facts.

Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration — especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans. The most authoritative recent study of this effect, by George Borjas and Lawrence Katz of Harvard, estimates that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration

I don't know what Krugman means by "income" though when he mentioned it increased slightly. Is that before or after taxes?

"Basic decency requires that we provide immigrants, once they're here, with essential health care, education for their children, and more. As the Swiss writer Max Frisch wrote about his own country's experience with immigration, "We wanted a labor force, but human beings came." Unfortunately, low-skill immigrants don't pay enough taxes to cover the cost of the benefits they receive."

The person who said that wasn't a paleocon or neocon hack, but it was a florid, voluble, and eloquent liberal. But like Krugman, I do think the problems of immigration are somewhat exaggerated:

"We shouldn't exaggerate these problems. Mexican immigration, says the Borjas-Katz study, has played only a "modest role" in growing U.S. inequality. And the political threat that low-skill immigration poses to the welfare state is more serious than the fiscal threat: the disastrous Medicare drug bill alone does far more to undermine the finances of our social insurance system than the whole burden of dealing with illegal immigrants. "

Randall, any predictions about the priority of illegal immigration in the future GOP or Democratic Party platforms? I thought you would find it interesting that a liberal acknowledged that immigration is problematic. I do not like it because it threatens some political agendas I advocate and I do share your concern about an unsustainable welfare state. I wonder what will happen in Mexico if the borders are sealed off.

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