Lindsey Graham forgets what ‘everything’ means

Lindsey Graham sure does sound confident about 2012.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says the 2012 presidential election is the GOP’s to lose.

“President Obama has done everything he knows how to do to beat himself,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The reason people have little [confidence] in President Obama’s policies is they’re just not working. Everything is worse.”

Now, as I recall, Graham’s record of election predictions isn’t exactly sterling. A week before the 2008 election, Graham was in North Carolina touting John McCain’s chances. “[McCain] fits North Carolina like a glove…. I’ll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina.”

A week later, Obama won North Carolina. Michael Phelps was unavailable for comment.

The senator’s track record notwithstanding, I still think Republicans are making a mistake with this “everything is worse” nonsense. Sure, Graham’s a hack, more concerned with cheap shots than telling the public the truth, but he should nevertheless realize he’s making the wrong argument.

“Everything is worse”? That might make more sense were it not for the fact that:

* American job creation is better now than when Bush left office.

* American economic growth is better now than when Bush left office.

* Al Qaeda is dramatically weaker now than when Bush left office.

* The American automotive industry is vastly stronger now than when Bush left office.

* The struggle for equality of the LGBT community is vastly better now than when Bush left office.

* The U.S. health care system is better and more accessible than when Bush left office.

* The federal budget deficit is better now than when Bush left office.

* The major Wall Street indexes and corporate profits are better now than when Bush left office.

* International respect for the United States is better now than when Bush left office.

Want to try that again, Lindsey?

Whether Graham realizes it or not, he and his cohorts are inadvertently making President Obama’s pitch to voters significantly easier. By that I mean, they’re creating a standard for the debate: either conditions have improved since Obama took office or they haven’t. What the right still doesn’t understand is that this is the best of all possible standards for Democrats.

If the message to voters is, “The status quo stinks,” that’s a tough message for Dems to argue against, because as much progress as there’s been since late 2008, conditions are still awful for much of the country. We were in a very deep hole, and we’re not done climbing out.

But if the pitch is, “Obama made it worse,” that’s a much easier message for Dems to argue against because it’s demonstrably ridiculous.

Republicans, who are usually better at messaging than this, are setting up the wrong question. Instead of asking, “Did Obama make things good?” they’re urging voters to ask, “Did Obama make things worse?” Democrats much prefer the latter for a reason.

If all Obama has to do is prove he didn’t make things worse, he stands a much better chance.