Jonah Goldberg

"The choice in this election is between an economy that produces a growing middle class and that gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead, and an economy that continues down the road we are on, where a fewer and fewer number of people do very well and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace."

That's Obama advisor David Axelrod on "Fox News Sunday," explaining why people should vote for ... Barack Obama.

Odds are this was simply poor phrasing. But it might not have been, given how desperately the Obama campaign wants to turn back the clock to 2008, when the choice was between hope and change or continuing "down the road we are on."

Regardless of the spin, the simple fact is that Obama is the stay-the-course candidate stuck with a team, a record and an economy ill-suited for a stay-the-course strategy.

That's what gives poignancy to Obama's recently renewed love affair with Ronald Reagan, whom Obama invokes these days as a model of reasonableness and bipartisanship. He even wants to rename the "Buffett rule" the "Reagan rule."

Even before he got the nomination in 2008, Obama said he wanted to be a "transformative" president like Reagan had been.

And last year, Time magazine featured a cover story, "Why Obama [Hearts] Reagan," which in Time's words gave the true story behind "Obama's Reagan Bromance."

There were two key elements to Obama's man-crush. The first was the simple hope that history -- or at least the business cycle -- would repeat itself.

The White House's plan was to run for re-election in 2012 with a soaring economy at its back. After an absolutely bruising recession (that was in some ways worse than the one Obama inherited), Reagan got to ride a surging economy to re-election. America enjoyed 6 percent annual growth in 1984: In three of the four quarters before Election Day, GDP quarterly growth was more than 7 percent, while inflation and unemployment plummeted.

At Obama's back is a dismayingly anemic recovery, constantly threatening to get worse. He wants credit for "creating" 3 million jobs but insists he be held blameless for millions more workers who've left the job market entirely.

The other reason the White House admired the Reagan White House? According to Time: "Both relied heavily on the power of oratory." Then-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs added, "Our hope is the story ends the same way."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.