In his recent book, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age Larry Bartels persuasively argues that macroeconomic performance is better under Democratic Presidents than under Republicans ones. So how do Republicans win? He cites several factors, but one of the most important is timing — Republicans have tended to produce decent economic performance in election years, and election year economic performance seems to be the only kind of performance that impacts public opinion. But John McCain’s timing isn’t so good, and the scary economic headlines are correlating with a huge boost for Barack Obama in the polls:
I heard some talk last night on cable to the effect that foreign crisis drives voters to the GOP whereas economic crisis drives voters to the Democrats. I don’t think that’s actually true of the economy — rather, bad economic performance is bad for the incumbent party and good for challengers.