Can President Obama say "it' s morning in America", given 7.8% unemployment just reported for September 2012? Well, Ronald Reagan said it in October 1984, when the unemployment rate was actually 7.4% (the September rate was 7.3%). That's only 0.4% different and in both cases, the numbers are moving in the right direction.
In 1984, the American economy was in recovery from a serious recession in 1981-2 and from the effects of stagflation, but had not yet fully recovered. Unemployment had peaked at 10.8% in December 1982. In this cycle, unemployment peaked at 10% in December 2009. The misery index (inflation + unemployment) had been 12.05% in September 1984 (11.65% in October 1984) off of a peak 19.33 on January 1981. The current misery index in August 2012 is 9.79% off its peak of 12.87% in September 2011 and should be close to 9.49% for September if inflation held steady in September. That's better than the misery index Reagan faced during his 1984 re-election!
The biggest difference is that the growth of the economy was larger in 1984, especially earlier in the first two quarters when the GDP growth rate hit 8%, although it cooled off to 3.5-4% in the last half of the year. The only data we have now is only from the second quarter and it so far showed weaker growth in the first half of the year now (1.3-2%). The depth of the 2008-9 recession was greater than the one in 1981 and more structural damage occurred. However, the recent better unemployment data prefigures stronger economic growth.
Until this last unemployment report, Mitt Romney was casting himself as Reagan to Obama's Carter. He even sounded like Reagan vocally-- probably intentionally in the debate, where he played the Reagan role to a hilt, using every trick in the book, including a boatload of lies to do it. I'm not the only who thought so: Michael Moore said he was channeling Reagan. He made it clear he considers this an analagous election to 1980. Before the debate, he was even quoted as saying he might say "there you go again", he didn't, but only because Obama did not call him on many of his blatant misrepresentations.
But in the next debate, Obama should cast himself as this generation's progressive Reagan and report that just as in 1984, we are approaching at least a "new dawn" with "morning in america" not far behind using the unemployment report as the critical evidence. There will be two "Reagans" on stage, Romney as an extreme version of the 1980 one with the analogy to 1980 is no longer valid, and Obama as the 1984 version albeit with progressive values instead of ultra conservative ones. Watch Romney's "head explode" and his campaign fall apart. Please Mr President, go for it.