Robert S. McElvaine: Has Obama Made the Job Situation Worse?

Roundup: Historians' Take

Robert S. McElvaine is a professor of history at Millsaps College. His most recent book is the 25th anniversary edition of “The Great Depression.”

“Without a doubt President Obama inherited a difficult situation. Here’s the problem. He made it worse,” Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, has been saying in his stump speech.

Ryan’s statement consists of two parts; the first is gross understatement, the second gross misstatement. It is the misstatement that is the essence of the case Republicans are putting before American voters: That President Obama has made the economy worse. Getting voters to believe that assertion is probably the Republicans’ only hope of winning the election. 

In the latest poll (a Wall Street Journal and NBC News survey released on Tuesday), respondents favor President Obama over Gov. Romney — generally by wide margins — in almost every category other than improving the economy. On “caring about average people,” for example, Obama is favored by an extraordinary margin to 52 percent to 30 percent....

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