Under the headline “1,000 Days Out: Calmer Landscape for ’16 Race,” USA Today‘s Susan Page (2/10/14) begins:
The last time there was an open race for the White House, in 2008, the question could have been why anybody would want the job. The economy was sinking into the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
Whereas today things look different:
Amid early jockeying for the 2016 election–precisely 1,000 days away as of Wednesday–presidential hopefuls face what is shaping up to be a very different landscape.
The economy is recovering steadily, if slowly. Unemployment, while still troubling, is declining–to 6.6 percent last month, the lowest since October 2008. The federal budget deficit has dropped from its peak by nearly two-thirds despite the failure to reach a long-sought Grand Bargain. The auto industry has regained its footing, and big banks no longer seem threatened with collapse.
Of course, a thousand days before the 2008 election, the economic crisis that started in 2007 hadn’t happened yet. Unemployment was at 4.7 percent. The Congressional Budget Office was projecting a 2006 deficit of $337 billion–less than a quarter of what it would be in three years.
That the actual circumstances under which candidates ran for office in 2008 didn’t at all resemble the situation in early 2006 shows the futility of trying to pontificate about elections almost three years before they happen. But that isn’t going to stop the political press corps.
In fact, Page is already predicting the policies the next president will have to pursue. Surprise! They involve cutting Social Security:
Policymakers have failed to seal a deal on the mix of politically difficult steps that a fix is likely to involve: increasing taxes, curbing benefits, raising the retirement age. The next president presumably will no longer have the option of delay.
It’s going to be a long thousand days.