The 2012 issue is the economy, and the Democrats are deceiving themselves. Many are realistically resigned to anemic economic growth and poor job creation, but they try to convince themselves that a perceived shift in the trajectory of the economy by Election Day will save them. Good luck with that.
I read and am told by Democrats that while the Obama economy is bad, if things appear to be getting better just before the election, then it will lift people's spirits and the president will cruise to reelection. This thinking may provide self-delusional reassurance in the near term, but it may also prevent the Obama team from doing the things they could still do to convince voters that President Obama has learned from his mistakes and isn't completely befuddled by the economy, or that he doesn't think the economy is good enough and voters just have to wait. The latest data suggest rising layoffs, falling home sales, slowing manufacturing and slower growth overseas, which are all combining to send us closer to recession in the spring. To listen to some Democrats, you could be convinced this is good news. A spring recession would mean a fall recovery, hence the shift in trajectory and voter optimism that will reelect Obama. That is not a rational campaign plan and no one will think it is an economic plan.
So what do Mitt Romney and Republicans do under these circumstances? First, we need to be sure we don't make ourselves more vulnerable to the charge that we are hoping for the worst and talking down the economy. We need to be clear on why Obama policies will never produce healthy growth and be clear that we have plans that will unleash the confidence, risk-taking and business expansion that will make American jobs more secure and plentiful.
Romney still needs a plan that everyone understands. Remember the traction Herman Cain got from the 9-9-9 plan? I'm not suggesting that we dust that one off, but it should remind us that on Election Day we need voters to know exactly what initial big moves President Romney would take to change our economic course and refresh our economy. Let's hope that Obama and the Democrats continue to believe that voters will be with them on Election Day if they perceive their economic prospects have recently shifted from terrible to just very bad.