US markets hadn’t even opened yet on Monday, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was pinning an expected downturn on President Barack Obama.
“This is a history of failed policies by this president,” Christie said on Fox News Monday morning.
“What’s happened is, because this president has run up more debt than any president in American history, that debt has been given to us in large measure by the Chinese.
“Now, as the Chinese markets tend to have a correction, which they’re doing right now, it’s going to have an even greater effect.”
As the US stock market suffered dramatic losses on Monday, Republican presidential candidates smelled blood in the water, eagerly exploiting an opportunity to rail against Obama’s economic record.
Less than a minute after the stock market opened on Monday, the Dow was down more than 1,000 points. And Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was already railing against close ties between the US and China.
“As I have long stated, we are so tied in with China and Asia that their markets are now taking the U.S. market down. Get smart U.S.A.,” Trump tweeted.
In a series of posts, Trump repeated his frequent anti-China message, claiming that China is “taking our jobs, and taking our money.”
“Be careful. They will bring us down. You have to know what you’re doing. We have nobody that has a clue,” Trump said in an Instagram post.
Other members of the field soon followed Trump’s lead.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina both blamed the market downturn on the Obama administration.
In recent history, voters have tended to place the blame for economic issues on the party responsible during the downturn. Republicans attempted to make the 2012 election a referendum on the Obama economy, but polls show that many voters still blamed former President George W. Bush, who presided over the financial crisis of 2008.
And after two terms, many political analysts and strategists are warning that a poor market and economic outlook could spoil Democrats’ solid chances for winning back control of the Senate and retaining control of the White House.
On Tuesday morning, markets were already bouncing back, and ven with relatively sluggish growth during the Obama years, the US has largely stayed above the troubles of sagging economies in Europe and, more recently, in Asia.
But if the recent turmoil in markets persists, experts think this action could change the dynamics of the 2016 election.
“[A] continued market selloff would hurt the Democrats because people will worry about an economic slump,” said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group.
And this worry would put pressure on Democrats like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden (if he decides to enter the race), who are so clearly tied to Obama administration economic policies. An unsettled economic outlook could also throw Republican economic proposals and promises — like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) vow of 4% growth — into the spotlight.
“I think it is a problem for moderate Democrats, yes, absolutely,” Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told Business Insider in an email. “[The] election becomes more of an up/down on Obama term and health of the economy will be the top issue if it’s seriously tanking.”
Vallerie said that if the economy deteriorates, it wouldn’t even matter if the Republican message makes sense — history demonstrates that voters will blame the party in charge during any downturn.
“The criticism today from Fiorina, Trump, et al is incoherent but that’s not the point — they have someone to blame: the current administration and, of course, China,” Vallerie said.
Last month, Politico reported that Democrats are already taking preemptive steps to blunt GOP attacks over poor economic growth. And Clinton advisers are already planning on assuaging voters’ fears about a lacklustre economy while highlighting Obama’s achievements.
The only scenario Bremmer saw helping Democrats would come in the unlikely scenario the party nominates a populist like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) against an establishment Republican, which he admitted is not exactly within the realm of possibility.
“The exception is in the unusual case that Sanders gets the nomination against a moderate Republican; where it becomes an anti-establishment candidate who can pick up populist vote. The trends away from traditional politicians make this a much harder election to forecast if one actually breaks through,” Bremmer said.
The stock-market situation can change quickly, as evidenced by Tuesday’s market surge. But for their part, Republicans are likely to latch onto the issue for as long as possible.
Right before the market closed on Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called for Obama to cancel Chinese President Xi Jingping’s state visit next month due to China’s perceived economic and military aggressiveness.
“Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today’s markets driven in part by China’s slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy,” Walker said in a statement on Monday.
“President Obama needs to cancel the state visit. There’s serious work to be down rather than pomp and circumstance.”
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