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Growth is a Winner

Article by Matthew Denhart February 1, 2013 //   3 minute read
At the 4% Growth Project we have been monitoring the growth discussion during this year's presidential debates. Thus far, the team of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan has used the term "growth" (or variations) a combined 26 times. President Obama and Vice President Biden have also stressed growth, but their 15 mentions trail the Republicans'. In a recent column for Bloomberg, Amity Shlaes and I explore how past presidential debates have evoked the growth theme. We conclude, as the column's headline suggests, that talking about economic growth often leads to electoral victory. An excerpt of the column is provided below, and you can read it in its entirety here.
To win, say “growth.” That’s the takeaway from a survey of past presidential debates. In election years when economic troubles are the main issue, the advisers of candidates tend to settle on one of two themes: “jobs” or “growth.” Then they instruct their candidate to hammer home the ideas that the terms evoke. A quick survey of past election debates suggests that some terms work better than others when it comes to wooing voters. “Grow” or “growth,” when uttered in reference to the economy, may help win elections; “job” or “jobs” doesn’t work as well. Consider the 1992 campaign, when Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Ross Perot of Texas challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush. When the debates’ preparation began, in September 1992, the most recent reported jobless rate was 7.6 percent. “Creating jobs is the No. 1 issue,” President Bush said, and over Labor Day weekend Clinton told television viewers that a jobs program was “the No. 1 thing” he would do as president. In the 1992 debates themselves, the word “job” or “jobs” was used more than 100 times by candidates in relation to the economy. Clinton used the term the most. He was also big on “growth.” During the debates, Clinton used that word or “growing” 37 times, Ross Perot spoke of growth 10 times, and Bush only four. After the debates, President Bush increased his references to growth, saying on Oct. 27, while campaigning, “We have now had six straight quarters of growth in the United States.” It was Clinton’s debate record, however, that stuck in people’s minds. Read More