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August 03, 2012 9:22 AM Jimmy Carter, Really That Bad

By Jonathan Bernstein

I missed this one earlier this week…

Brendan Doherty is blogging about incumbent presidents and electioneering over at the Monkey Cage this week, based on his new book on the same topic.

Anyway, it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I always like to pick on Jimmy Carter when there’s a chance — and it turns out that of the recent presidents, Carter is the only one who couldn’t be bothered to devote most of his presidential trips within the US to battleground states. In his first three years of office, that is; he was with everyone else in the fourth year.

Now, I have no idea what the evidence is on this, but I can’t imagine that all those trips to Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida back in 2009 and 2010 really did much for Barack Obama. But still, you know, the president owes it to his party and his supporters to do what he can, and it’s not as if showing up in major battlegrounds is going to hurt. I mean, Carter’s start-and-stop economic policies were a much bigger deal, but this is yet another piece of it.

A fair number of liberals mistakenly think that Carter must have been a decent president because they like his policy positions on issues they care about. But the presidency is far, far, more than having good instincts on policy. It’s a political job above all, and in things big and little Carter was just awful at it. And this one? Typical Carter: acting above all that crass politics stuff until the end, when it was way too late.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.