CBS: 'Troubling Signs' For Obama, Like Bush in '92, But President 'Cannot Control' Economy

On Friday's CBS This Morning, Jan Crawford spotlighted that "the economic and political climate today is more similar to years when incumbent presidents lost than when they won." The correspondent pointed out the similarity between polling numbers today and in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was running for reelection: "Gallup has asked voters whether they're satisfied with the way things in the country are going. Today, only 24 percent say they're satisfied. That's closest to the 20 percent low in May 1992."

Despite this, anchor Charlie Rose tried to shift the blame away from President Obama: "It looks like this is a situation where President Obama fears most the thing he cannot control, which is the economy."

Crawford devoted much of her report to putting the close race between Obama and Mitt Romney into a historical context, and particularly zeroed-in on the 1992 election:

Screen Cap From 25 May 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgCRAWFORD: Going into the summer, polls have the candidates in a statistical dead heat, but as any previous candidate will tell you, polls in May don't mean much in November. In May 2004, the last time a sitting president ran for reelection, George W. Bush was losing by eight points to John Kerry. But after a tough campaign on national security and growing economic confidence, Bush won. By contrast, his father was the incumbent in 1992, and in May of that year, he was leading Bill Clinton. But over the summer, Americans' confidence in the economy dropped, and George H. W. Bush lost his lead and the White House.

The CBS journalist then played two soundbites from Major Garrett of the National Journal, who explained that "President Obama is weaker than Jimmy Carter, who lost; stronger than George Herbert Walker Bush, who lost; and weaker than every modern American president who sought reelection and won. They were all above 50 percent approval. The President is not. He's around 46 percent. That's a danger zone."

Near the end of the segment, Crawford pointed out the similar Gallup poll numbers between Obama in 2012 and Bush in 1992, but added that "there is some good news out there for the President. Voters say they like President Obama, that he seems more likeable and seems to care more about average Americans."

Rose brought on CBS political director John Dickerson after the report, and began with his Obama "cannot control the economy" the statement. Dickerson replied, "That's exactly right," but then took a similar path as Crawford in highlighting the negative historical context for the President:


DICKERSON: The lesson of history is that if voters blame you for their economic troubles, you're not going to have a second inauguration. For the last three incumbent presidents - Ford, Carter, and Bush in 1992 - the unemployment rate was at about 7.6 [percent]. Well, it's at 8.1 today, and no president has won reelection with an unemployment rate above 7.2 percent.

ROSE: So does that mean that the Obama forces and the Obama campaign has to tear down the Romney narrative more than build up their own?

DICKERSON: That's right. They've got to do two things: one, try and convince voters to stop looking at the present and think about the future. Voters are a little bit brighter and sunnier about the future. But the other thing they've got to do is what you focus on, which is disqualify Mitt Romney as an alternative, and that's part of what George W. Bush did in his reelection campaign, which is disqualify John Kerry on the national security question. What the problem - and the difference for President Obama is - George W. Bush had pretty good ratings on the question of who can handle the question of terror, which was top of mind. President Obama's ratings on economy, the top of mind issue for voters, are quite bad.

[Update: The full transcript of the Jan Crawford and John Dickerson segments from Friday's CBS This Morning, which ran back-to-back starting 10 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, are available at MRC.org.]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center