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Whoa, It's Still The Economy

[Guest post by James Downie]

Jon has blogged at length about pundits trying to come up with other reasons besides the economy for Obama's decline, but, unfortunately, the trope shows no signs of dying. Look at First Read's reasons why the GOP could take back the House:

The facts are the facts: The Cook Political Report identifies 64 Democratic-held seats as either “Lean” or “Toss-up” races, and Republicans would need to win a majority of them (39) to win control of the House. Indeed, there are four reasons why the House is up for grabs: 1) according to history, the GOP stands to pick up seats; 2) Republicans enjoy a significant enthusiasm advantage; 3) Democrats are losing the independent vote; and 4) much of the House battleground will play in white/rural districts, where Obama isn’t performing well.

Of these four reasons, numbers 3 and 4 are mostly because of the economy, number 2 is at least partly because of the economy, and number 1 is so enshrined as an inevitability that even First Read wrote "according to history." All this doesn't stop Peggy Noonan from remaining airily baffled:

Winning brings winning, which increases popularity. Mr. Obama won on more than health care; he won on the stimulus package and the Detroit bailout. And yet his poll numbers continue to float downward. He is not more loved with victory. To an unusual and maybe unprecedented degree his victories seem like victories for him, and for his party, and for his agenda, but they haven't settled in as broad triumphs that illustrate power and competence.

Jon's been over this time and again, but the truth is that those successes won't settle in as triumphs for the average voter until the economy begins to pick up speed again. While the White House seems to believe courting business for investment (and campaign funds) is the fastest way towards closing the gap for the fall, I'd put money on passing another stimulus, or at least unemployment benefits and state budget aid, as the best way to keep the House Democratic - and the Republicans know that.