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Cameron and Obama will both need economic growth to be re-elected (and that must be their laser-like focus)

6a00d83451b31c69e20120a651c972970b Barack Obama got a helluva beating in Massachusetts last night. The Democrats lost one of their safest seats on the first anniversary of the 44th president's election. What has gone wrong and are there lessons for David Cameron as he prepares for what he hopes will be his first twelve months in government?

The first lesson is to manage expectations. Obama came to power on a wave of unrealistic expectations. Fortunately perhaps, Cameron is not riding such a wave.

Tell people what you are going to do. Obama campaigned in sweet-sounding generalities but has governed as a radical. Obama never told the American people the extent of his ambitions (on the massive fiscal stimulus, on green policy and crucially on healthcare reform). Voters feel misled. I still don't think Cameron has levelled with voters on the deficit and what is going to be necessary to put it right.

Be focused, be bipartisan, promote experience. These were the three lessons I outlined last November. Obama has tried to do too much and done nothing particularly well. He has not reached across the aisle but has governed as an ideological liberal. He has surrounded himself in the White House with political campaigners and not enough experience.

Lessons from America should never be crudely imported but Team Cameron will know that electorates are much more volatile now. They are less forgiving of mistakes. Handling a impatient electorate and media will require considerable skill. Team Cameron will also know that it doesn't necessarily matter if you are unpopular after 12 months if you have done the groundwork for victory after four years.

It's STILL the economy, stupid. More than anything, says Mort Zuckerman, "he didn’t address the main issue"; the economy. David Frum writes:

"In an article in today’s Boston Globe, reporter Robert Gavin wrote that “the recession has been more like a depression for blue-collar workers”.  He cited that, “in Massachusetts, there are 65 unemployed construction and 24 jobless manufacturing workers for each available position, according to a new report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.”  That compares to just two job seekers for every job in professional occupations.  He further reports that for blue-collar workers, matters are expected to worsen, remaining well below prerecession levels for years to come, according to the New England Economic Partnership. These out of work individuals have watched the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress take the United States trillions of dollars deeper into debt, supposedly to stimulate the economy.  But they have seen no personal results, as they still do not have a job with almost no hope of securing one."

6a00d83451b31c69e2012876379d6d970c-250wi-1 Ultimately Obama and Cameron will be judged at their success in getting the economy back to growth. All other problems become much more soluble when the economy is in the fast lane.

Obama still has a chance in 2012 if the Americans feel by then that he made their families better off. It's not always enough but it remains the principal building block of all re-elections.

From day one Cameron and Osborne must lead a government of jobs and growth.

Tim Montgomerie


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