Paul Krugman discusses what he calls "the pundit delusion," in which pundits believe the day-to-day inside baseball (the stuff they love to endlessly recycle) is what determines the fate of the administration, when it really comes down to how well people are doing economically:
What should Mr. Obama have done? Some political analysts, like Charlie Cook, say that he made a mistake by pursuing health reform, that he should have focused on the economy. As far as I can tell, however, these analysts aren’t talking about pursuing different policies — they’re saying that he should have talked more about the subject. But what matters is actual economic results.
The best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis. Obviously, he didn’t do that. Maybe he couldn’t have passed an adequate-sized plan, but the fact is that he didn’t even try. True, senior economic officials reportedly downplayed the need for a really big effort, in effect overruling their staff; but it’s also clear that political advisers believed that a smaller package would get more friendly headlines, and that the administration would look better if it won its first big Congressional test.
In short, it looks as if the administration itself was taken in by the pundit delusion, focusing on how its policies would play in the news rather than on their actual impact on the economy.
Republicans, by the way, seem less susceptible to this delusion. Since Mr. Obama took office, they have engaged in relentless obstruction, obviously unworried about how their actions would look or be reported. And it’s working: by blocking Democratic efforts to alleviate the economy’s woes, the G.O.P. is helping its chances of a big victory in November.
Can Mr. Obama do anything in the time that remains? Midterm elections, where turnout is crucial, aren’t quite like presidential elections, where the economy is all. Mr. Obama’s best hope at this point is to close the “enthusiasm gap” by taking strong stands that motivate Democrats to come out and vote. But I don’t expect to see that happen.
What I expect, instead, if and when the midterms go badly, is that the usual suspects will say that it was because Mr. Obama was too liberal — when his real mistake was doing too little to create jobs.