Is Barack Obama "the Democrats' Reagan?" That's the argument Newsweek's Andrew Sullivan makes in his cover story from the latest issue. In the piece, Sullivan argues that Obama could be as transformative a president as the Gipper was. In fact, he says, Obama's electoral and policy strategies may be so successful they could "bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left."
Sullivan does think there are crucial differences, however. On Tuesday's Hardball, he told host Chris Matthews that he thinks Obama has been a superior president to Reagan in many ways.
"Reagan ran for reelection with a higher 'misery index' than Obama currently has," said Sullivan. "Reagan's recession was also a fed-induced recession, in order to wring inflation out of the economy, and it happened and began on his watch."
Obama, by contrast, inherited much worse circumstances than did Reagan. "Obama inherited a financial collapse recession, which of their nature last longer, and it happened before he got there," said Sullivan. "I think that helps explain the difference [in how well the economy is recovering]."
Sullivan added that Gallup approval ratings for Reagan and Obama matched more closely than any other two presidents in the last 50 years—except that Reagan's approval sank lower in his first term than Obama's ever did. In addition, "Reagan's recovery was the sugar high," depending on huge deficits for which America is still paying today, Sullivan said, while Obama has given the public tough love, leading them to understand the long-term nature of the problem.
"If you've watched the president, you know that he always plays the long game," Sullivan said.