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York: Sharp focus on economy could boose GOP

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 9:56 p.m. CST

Most Americans think the economy is still bad and that President Barack Obama is doing a poor job handling it.

With unemployment at 6.6 percent, and only that low because millions of frustrated, jobless workers have left the labor force entirely, issues that consume media attention – like whether a shop-owner should be forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple – will inevitably fade in importance compared to the economy when voters go to the polls in November.

Apart from the month last fall when the Obamacare computer system crashed, Obama’s job approval rating has never been lower, according to a recent poll from the New York Times and CBS. Just 41 percent of those surveyed approve of the job the president is doing, while 51 percent disapprove.

On the question of Obama’s handling of the economy, 38 percent approve, while 57 percent disapprove.

The president’s party is hit hard, too. In the so-called generic ballot question – “If the election were held today, would you vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate as your representative?” – Republicans lead Democrats, 42 percent to 39 percent.

There’s little doubt that economic conditions, coupled with the burdens imposed on millions of Americans by Obamacare, are behind the Democrats’ troubles now, and most likely in November, too.

In addition, 72 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, compared to just 33 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans (Obama’s overall approval rating on the economy is 38 percent).

Numbers like that reflect a mindset among Democrats that could have a significant effect this November. If Democrats have talked themselves into believing the economy is better than it is, they are less likely to demand candidates who will concentrate relentlessly on the economy. And that will produce candidates who focus less, or at least less effectively, on the voting public’s No. 1 concern.

Such a mindset could affect press coverage, too, in a world in which most reporters, opinion writers and editors at large media outlets are Democrats.

If many journalists see a better economy than most other Americans see, it’s not surprising they might devote a disproportionate amount of coverage to, say, gay wedding cakes or the Chris Christie bridge scandal.

• Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.

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