With Mitt Romney set to speak in Iowa today, the Obama campaign puts out a statement hitting Romney for having no new ideas to fix the economic crisis:

After years of running for President, and dozens of speeches since becoming the nominee, Romney can’t seem to come up with a single new idea or policy to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class — and, in fact, independent economists say the plan he has laid out would slow the recovery. And here’s why — as corporate buyout specialist he was never interested in creating jobs and, as Governor, he drove Massachusetts down to 47th of 50 states in job creation. So now he’s banking on the same failed policies that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place.

According to the Obama campaign release, that’s a reference to Joel Prakken of Macroeconomic Advisers and Mark Hopinns of Moody’s Analytics, both of whom said this week that Romney’s policies would not fix the short term crisis and could even make it worse.

Romney has regularly faulted Obama for having no plan to pull us out of the employment slump, and yet the question of whether Romney’s ideas would fix the near term crisis has been almost entirely absent from the discussion. This speaks to a difficult challenge the Obama reelection campaign faces: How does an incumbent running in a bad economy turn the focus to his challenger?

As even some Republicans operatives have noted with satisfaction, the media coverage of this race has suggested that this is shaping up as one of those races that’s all about the incumbent. And so the Obama team has had to press very hard to get the focus turned back to Romney’s claims about the economy. We’ve seen this dynamic again and again. Obama himself had to push reporters at a press conference to scrutinize the Congressional GOP jobs plans, demanding that they ask independent economists to evaluate them, before that began to happen. More recently, Obama aides hammered away for days and days and days at the double standard Romney has been using to judge the two men’s jobs records before managing to turn some media scrutiny on it. (One sign that this has had some success: Romney’s new ad this morning is all about defending his jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts; Steve Kornacki does a nice job debunking the ad’s claims here.)

It now looks like the same thing is happening again. The question of whether economists think Romney’s plans would or wouldn’t fix the economic crisis — and whether those plans could actually make things worse — would seem to be absolutely central to this presidential campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the Obama team can elevate that question enough to make it part of the national political conversation.