It's Reagan vs. Carter 2.0.
Back in 1980, conservative darling Ronald Reagan popularized the campaign question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" in order to oust President Jimmy Carter and make the Democratic president a one-term candidate. Flash forward to 2012, Mitt Romney is trying to do the very same, reviving Reagan's question in his bid to send President Obama packing.
Romney first made clear that he would be adopting Reagan's line during his speech at the Republican National Convention last Thursday, when he told Americans, "President Obama promised to being to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise ... is to help you and your family."
He continued, "every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: "you are better off today than you were four years ago." Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president."
In the aftermath of that speech, high-profile Republicans have taken to the airwaves to continue hammering home that point. "The president can say a lot of things, and he will, but he can't tell you that you're better off," said vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. "Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years look like the good old days compared to where we are right now."
Thus far, President Obama and Democrats have not exactly been convincing in their response. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer on Sunday and was asked if he could "honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago. "No," he replied, "but that's not the question of this election." After conservative media had a field day with that statement, O'Malley walked back on his statement and said on CNN's "Starting Point" on Monday that the country was "clearly" better off than four years ago.
Vice president Joe Biden was more certain: "Folks, let me make something clear -- say it to the press -- American is better off today," he said during a campaign stop in Detroit. "Let me just sum it up this way, folks. Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."
As the Democratic National Convention gets set to begin on Tuesday (full schedule of events here), Democrats will have to hone their message and develop a unified response to the question which is likely to be repeated endlessly by Romney surrogates until November. They'll need to explain either a) Why America is better off than four years ago; or b) Why this is not the right question to be asking.
Weigh in: Are you better off than you were four years ago? If you were President Obama's advisers, how would you respond to the Republican attack? Join the debate in the comments.