The Democrats' Toughest, Most Obvious Question

Josh Barro is the lead writer for the Ticker, Bloomberg View's blog on economics, finance and politics. His primary areas of interest include tax and fiscal policy, state and local government, and planning and land use.
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On CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, Maryland Governor and Obama surrogate Martin O'Malley did his cause no favors with his answer to the obvious question from host Bob Schieffer.

"Can you honestly say," Schieffer asked, "that people are better off today than they were four years ago?”

O'Malley's answer: "No." O'Malley added, "That's not the question of this election." That's not going to fly.

O'Malley proceeded to lay out how the Bush administration had made mistakes and left President Barack Obama playing a terrible hand. Obama partisans have been using this line for four years and have internalized it. Apparently it's so obvious to them that Obama deserves to be graded on a curve that they don't realize how pathetic it sounds to say so.

Obama's challenge at this convention is to make the case that his four years were well spent -- not just on health care, foreign policy and social issues, where Obama has clear achievements to highlight, but on the economy. And he has to explain why the next four years can be expected to produce more economic growth than the last four.

It's a tough case to make, but it's not optional. As Schieffer responded to O'Malley, "Bush is not on the ballots."

(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. E-mail him and follow him on Twitter.)

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