As Krugman has shown many times, this is a false analogy that doesn't compare apples to apples. The recession of 1981-82 was a Fed induced recession where the Fed deliberately raised unemployment and lowered output to slow down the economy and break the back of inflation.
This recession on the other hand was based on the popping of a real estate bubble-which is by definition always a tougher, slower recovery.
Yet, 1980 seems to be on the mind of the Romney campaign in a different way as well. They have not only drawn an analogy between this recession and the one in the early 1980s but between this election and 1980.
Indeed, more than once they have invoked Jimmy Carter, comparing him to President Obama.
Nevertheless, President Carter today is much more popular than say George W. Bush which might demonstrate why Carter spoke last night but W was persona non grata in Tampa
The Romney team seems to really like the idea of 1980 regarding the outcome. They are married to this idea that just like Reagan who had trailed Carter most of the Summer and then at the last stretch pulled away for a landslide victory, so Romney may do.
Like in the economic comparison, it's again apples to oranges.
"I laid out a few reasons last week why the historical comparison is imperfect. And in response to my post, Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, who wrote a book on the 1980 campaign, sends over some more interesting thoughts:
Beyond the fact that Romney is not even a poor imitation of Reagan; or that Obama is a vastly superior politician to Carter; or the fact that the economy is nowhere near as bad as it was in 1980; or that the world situation is far better than in 1980; what is most overlooked is that nearly every state was in play in 1980, unlike today.
Both candidates campaigned across the country; Reagan in New York City, Carter in Reagan’s California.
Some states like Wyoming were going to go Republican and Georgia was going to go Democratic, but hard as it is to believe only 32 years later, the South was considered a Democratic stronghold, New Jerry was considered a reliable Republican state in presidential years and both sides competed aggressively for Illinois, Texas, Michigan and other big prizes.
In the end, as we now know, Reagan took 44 states but many like Tennessee and Massachusetts he only won by the narrowest of margins.
The Romney team seesm to be focusing on 1980 in part to explain why they haven't broken through yet-last weeks' convention whiff also is an ill omen.
If they truly believe this narrative it will surely mislead them. Indeed, Patrick Buchanan-yes that Buchanan-wrote a piece that shows you the dangers the GOP faces in the future:
"Though he has four straight trillion-dollar deficits and 42 months of 8 percent unemployment to his credit, Obama appears to already have four of the seven mega-states — California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York — secure and is more than competitive in Ohio and Florida."
"Looking to the future, what is the Republican strategy ever again to win New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois or California, other than due to some national calamity or new depression?"
This is what's hard for us to understand. In 1980 New York and Massachusetts were up for grabs. The blue state/red state divide is of more recent vintage. So the idea of a Romney landslide-like Reagan in 1980-is surely a pipe dream.