Reagan 1984, Obama 2012

Ronald Reagan was bullish about America in 1984. I am bullish as hell about America in 2012. Here is why:

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As I started early this morning to finalize this column, I read the front page of The Wall Street Journal, which headlined: "Home building surges as confidence grows.” Then I turned on the “Today” show to watch Mika Brzezinski talk about how housing is up, foreclosures are down, confidence is up, unemployment is down. And then on CNBC I saw Phil Lebeau in Ohio reporting about the gigantic surge in auto sales and auto jobs that tells a story of success in the great American comeback that I wrote about last week, which has begun under President Obama.

As the moment of truth arrives for the campaign of 2012 what is striking is the similarity of economic, political and thematic conditions between the reelection year for President Reagan in 1984 and the reelection year for President Obama in 2012:

In 2012, as in 1984, a personally popular president is running at the inflection point when the curve of economic pain intersects with the curve of economic revival, when pain still persists but the data points of the American comeback grow greater and more powerful every day.

In 2012, as in 1984, the incumbent president began the debating season with a disastrous first debate and then found his voice with a victory in the second debate.

In 2012, as in 1984, a jobless rate between 7 and 8 is declining, while the national economy is moving forward. Reagan won, and Obama would win, by championing American optimism and American revival. Reagan called it Morning in America. Obama can call it the American comeback:

Today the unemployment rate is at multi-year lows. The great surge of auto jobs and auto sales is at multi-year highs. The foreclosure rate is at multi-year lows. The value of 401 (k) plans is at multi-year highs. The credit card delinquency rate is at decade-long lows. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is near an all-time high. The number of children with health insurance has risen. The danger of a global depression has ended. The hoarding of cash by banks has fallen. Bank lending has risen. Consumer confidence has risen.

A recent lead story on the ABC Network News asked: is the comeback coming to a town near you? You bet it is.

What made President Reagan the great communicator was his profound understanding of the continuum of economic and Cold War history at the moment of his presidency, and his extraordinary ability to discuss the progress and describe the future with an insatiable optimism of inspiring words and moving images.

President Obama has an incredible story to tell, and my greatest hope is that he closes this campaign by telling it. It is the story of a president who prevented the next great depression and began the next great American comeback. It is the story of a president whose programs for jobs, growth, shared prosperity, fairness, and justice were opposed by a furious partisanship yet still, despite Republican opposition has joblessness down, consumer confidence up, foreclosures down, 401 K's up, home sales up, auto sales up, auto jobs up, heavy truck sales up, home values up, homebuilder confidence up, and credit delinquency down while Ohio leads the march to prosperity once again.

President Obama has a quintessentially American story to tell: a man from a diverse background who was not born to privilege but worked hard and dreamed big and wants those dreams to come true for everyone. A man whose grandfather who marched with Patton might have met my father who marched into bullets at Bastogne. A man who believes in faith and family and the things that make America great. A man who has endured the most savage partisan attacks with the dignity of a man with a heart and a president with a purpose.

Are we better off than we were when the world faced the danger of a crash, jobs were being lost at a rate of 700,000 a month, retirement plans were being destroyed and bankers begged for bailouts? You bet we are. Has the American comeback begun under Obama in 2012 as Morning in America began under Reagan in 1984? You bet it has.

Missions still remain to be accomplished. Mandates still need to be won. But do not believe the prince of partisan pessimism who tells closed meetings how many Americans he has contempt for, who cannot decide whether he despises or should take credit for the great good President Obama did for the auto industry in Ohio, and who instead of still running ads heaping praise on the Comeback Kid who so brilliantly supports the president whose policies brought the American comeback, is now insulting the Secretary of State to exploit the death of American heroes.

It is President Obama in 2012 who can seize the mantle of President Reagan in 1984.

If Obama closes his campaign as Reagan did, and champions his cause of bringing the American comeback to every American in every family in every community in every state of the union, he will win his chance to reach for greatness in a second term.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.