Monday, June 18, 2012

Adventures in relative measures, or, nice try, Slate

With all due respect to its authors, I'm not sure I see how this map should "panic the Obama campaign." It's a clever little piece of work showing that job growth in swing states is lower than the national mean.   (Well, with the inconvenient exceptions of Colorado and Indiana, two of the very swingiest of states.)  From a policy perspective, I guess that's interesting.  But from a political perspective, it's meaningless.  People don't assess the current administration by evaluating their state's performance in relation to the national average.  "I'm voting against Obama because, while he was president, Virginia grew less quickly than Texas" is not a sentence a swing voter will ever utter.  If job growth was to explode through the roof in California tomorrow, swing states would move even further from the mean and get even bluer on the map, but would anyone argue that Obama's reelection chances had been damaged?

Obama and co. should obviously be more than a little concerned about the anemic recovery (and not only because it hurts his reelection prospects--lots of people are suffering out there!).  But the only thing that matters on this map is the bit in the corner that says "national growth: 1.3%."

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