Aside from a 1987 request regarding a wall in Germany, Ronald Reagan's greatest soundbite may be his closing knockout punch during the final debate of the 1980 presidential election, when Reagan said:
"Ask yourself, 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?
Given that the 1980 presidential election like the election this year features an unpopular Democratic incumbent facing criticisms for his policy approach to energy and unrest in the Middle East, it is not a surprise that Reagan's great line of questioning would be referenced while analyzing the general election this November. Eliot Spitzer, however, shocked some when he pitched on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that President Obama would be able to use the Gipper's lines as a means to campaign for his reelection.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at 7.8 percent in January 2009 when President Obama assumed office, reaching 10 percent in October 2009 and now at 8.3 percent, former White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee told ABC host George Stephanopoulos that the seemingly rosy economic picture with the latest jobs report won't last.
“As the economy’s improving, you’re also going to see, as you have the last couple of months, a whole lot of people coming out of the labor force, back into the job market,” Goolsbee said to the panel. “So the unemployment rate might actually go back up.”
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer turned the conversation on the economy to the election, where Spitzer said a corresponding uptick in the unemployment rate with long-term unemployed people jumping back in the work force “could look bad” for President Obama's reelection bid. At about the 7:00 mark of video of the roundtable, Spitzer predicted that to defend himself against criticisms on his handling of economic issues, President Obama will quote President Reagan's famous 1980 line.
"I think President Obama will quote President Reagan, 'Are you better off now than you were four years ago' and the answer is going to be overwhelming yes," Spitzer claimed, an assumption that even Stephanopoulos, a former aide to President Clinton, questioned. Former McCain Campaign adviser Nicolle Wallace and Republican strategist Mary Matalin immeadiately pounced on Spitzer's claim.
"Have you been to a focus group lately?" Matalin quipped back at Spitzer.
"They (voters) are really concerned about the future in ways they weren't," Matalin said. "If Carter was malaise, this is despair. Hope has turned to hopeless."
"People think that their kids have a worse shot at the bright future than they did," Wallace said.
"This is gobbledly-gook" Wallace later said in response to Goolsbee's criticism of GOP attacks on Obama's economic policy, which he sees as hypocritical, claiming that the 2004 Bush campaign defended their jobs record by dismissing troubles as part of the recession that they inherited.
Spitzer tossed out a few more surprising claims as the panel discussion progressed, claiming that "the public understands" that the Lehman Brothers induced fiscal crisis was "a consequence of the Bush-Reagan era."
"Independent voters are now looking at President Obama saying 'he has saved us from something that was utter failure'--"
"I have never met anyone who thinks Obama saved them" interjected a laughing Wallace.