Huffpost UK Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Mathew Strowbridge Headshot

The Importance of Ohio: The Importance of Fiscal Stimulus

Posted: Updated:

Since Barack Obama took up his lodgings in the oval office, unemployment has sky-rocketed, and the median income of American households has fallen to a level not seen since 1995. It is hence no surprise then that much of the air-time given over to discussing the recent presidential election has been dominated by the single issue of the US economy.

This is an issue that one sensed the incumbent president might struggle on. After all, not since Reagan in 1984 had an incumbent president been re-elected to office when unemployment rates stood at over 7%.

Your smart money might have predicted that Obama should be nowhere near likely to secure a second term in office. (Unless, of course, the local turf accountants had realised that when Reagan was re-elected it was - as with Obama today - during a sustained period of rising employment).

And yet, over the past three years, election after election across the developed world has seen incumbent premiers voted out of office in the wake of the global economic crisis. The fact that Obama has bucked this trend is testament to his - and the team behind him's - ability to persuade the electorate of his economic credentials.

Before voter's hit the poll booths this week, commentators appeared convinced that Obama and Mitt Romney were running neck-and-neck - unless, of course, you followed the predictions of Nate Silver. However, and aside from the national debate, the figures coming from several of the country's 'swing states', not least reports from Ohio, suggested that the president's lead was up to even 8% in early October and still holding out at 4% in the early days of November.

We are aware that Ohio is of particular importance, it having already been pointed out that no Republican candidate has successfully entered the White House without first winning in the Buckeye State. It was thus Obama's ability to motivate supporters in this area that helped see him comfortably across the finish line.

Yet, this was not down to a rush of last-minute campaigning.

When BBC correspondent Clive Myrie pitched up in a bar in the key swing state to ask voters which candidate they had supported, one specific Obama stimulus caught the eye as a decisive factor in the day's voting: the bailout over the winter of 2008-09 of the automotive firms Chrysler and General Motors.

The stimulus, introduced in the final months of George W. Bush's second term, was carried forward by his successor the following year. It was a decision that received a lukewarm response at the time but that, on Tuesday, appeared to reap an inestimable dividend.

Whilst the Republican vote clawed back nearly 4% in Ohio, the president's fractional win in this key state (eventually with a figure of 50.1% against Romney's 48.2%) helped see the election called in his favour a mere five hours after the first poll booths closed. It was a time-frame similar in its brevity to the president's landslide victory four years ago.

Looking at these events from the haven of the UK, we can see the president's tactics as the kind of electioneering that George Osborne and David Cameron would kill to dream up, let alone have the dexterity to put into action. And, with this is mind, keep your eyes peeled for a brand new socialist policy to emerge from Tory head office over the forthcoming months. Maybe a revitalising of the NHS? Or an increase in spending on benefits? On second thoughts, don't hold your breath.