The recovery is still shaky at best. Disapproval of Obama on the economy — the number one issue in this election — continues to run high, though that’s changing. Large majorities of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. How can Obama possibly be winning ?

One way to explain what’s happening can be found in Ron Brownstein’s epic, detailed piece this morning examining how Americans view the economy and the recovery. There’s a lot to chew on in here — Brownstein explains why voters may not be seeing Mitt Romney’s “are you better off” question as a relevant one. Brownstein digs into recent National Journal polling to show Obama is leading not just among those who are better off, but also among those who say their economic status is unchanged. How can that be? Here’s his explanation:

many Americans feel the economy is experiencing fundamental changes beyond the reach of any president to reshape quickly, or perhaps at all. Although some respondents said they believed that the 2012 election would determine the level of opportunity available for future generations, many others said that the nation’s economic trials reflect problems that have accumulated over time and are unlikely to be resolved soon.

I continue to believe commentators are being overly simplistic in interpreting what voters mean when they say they disapprove of Obama’s economic performance. Obviously many of them see that performance as disqualifying; nearly half the country will vote for Romney. But many may simply be expressing disappointment with Obama for his inability to engineer a faster recovery, while simultaneously finding that understandable, given the circumstances. They have dialed down expectations of a president’s ability to fix the economy quickly. As a result, they are not only willing to give Obama’s approach more time and are open to the idea that he has put us on the path to recovery; they are subjecting Romney’s claim that he has answers that can magically engineer a quick turnaround to more skepticism. Other polling bears this out.

Brownstein adds a crucial twist: the National Journal polling finds deep public belief that a host of specific problems are blocking the route to greater opportunity and shared prosperity. Huge majorities blame companies shipping jobs overseas; the cost of college; and the fact that the richest Americans are disproportionately enjoying the fruits of economic growth, among other things. It seems plausible that despite their disappointment with the status quo, many voters are still asking themselves which of the candidates has the solutions to these problems over the long haul. Many Romney supporters are flummoxed by Obama’s ability to defy the gravity of a bad economy, given the obvious truth (to them) that Obama has been a resounding failure. Perhaps they should ask themselves why voters are not concluding Romney has the answers to all their problems in the numbers he needs.

* Dems hit Romney in advance of debate: The Obama camp is out with a new Web video responding to Romney’s claim that he expects Obama to misrepresent his positions at the debates. The video recaps the alleged falsehoods Romney laments, and demonstrates that they are, well, true. David Axelrod has a memo noting that Romney will hit Obama hard over the economy, but that voters will judge the debates based on whose agenda for the middle class was more compelling.

It’s in the Obama camp’s interests for the media to score this debate based on that latter metric, since it’s in the process of reframing this race as a choice between two visions for the country’s future.

* Obama leads in another national poll: The new Fox News poll finds Obama ahead of Romney by five points among likely voters, 48-43. The poll finds high disapproval of Obama on the economy, but it also finds that Obama and Romney are tied on who is more trusted to handle it — by my count at least the ninth national poll to find that Romney’s advantage on the issue has evaporated.

By the way: Why does Fox News continue to participate in the grand liberal media conspiracy to artificially inflate Obama’s poll numbers?

* Tight race in key states, but Romney running out of options: The new NBC/WSJ polls find Obama leading in New Hampshire (51-44) but closer to tied in Nevada (49-47) and North Carolina (48-46). Without Ohio, which looks increasingly tough for Romney, he’ll need to win more of these other swing states, yet he doesn’t appear to be leading in any of them. Iowa also looks potentially hard for Romney.

Also: Nate Cohn makes the case that Obama’s strength in Nevada might be understated, though he allows Obama may be underperforming there, and that he’s the mild favorite in North Carolina.

* New report on dire impact of Obamacare repeal: Romney, still reeling from the leaked freeloading 47 percent video, has pointed to Romneycare as proof that he has “empathy” with the American people But Jonathan Cohn digs into a new report finding that if Romney gets his way and Obamacare is repealed, 40 million fewer people may end up with health insurance.

* What if undecided voters stay home? Charlie Cook, while explaining why Romney is very close to losing, raises an interesting possibility:

Very few undecided voters are left in swing states; campaign pollsters say that maybe 4 or 5 percent of likely voters fit in this category. And no one would be surprised if some of the remaining undecided voters, after being subjected to saturation advertising for months — in some cases since June — throw up their hands and opt to stay home on Election Day.

It’s another way the unprecedented crush of outside spending could have a diminishing returns effect.

* Labor ramps up in key Senate races: The AFL-CIO is dropping some 180,000 mailers into six states with key Senate and gubernatorial races. The mailer targeting Scott Brown notes he claims to side with the middle class but votes against them every time. The mailer hitting Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock paints him an a Tea Party extremist who explicitly prefers partisanship over compromise.

The new push includes on the ground organizing; with the political environment shifting against the GOP, labor senses an opening to make gains in persuading working class folks that the Republican Party is hostile to their interests.

* Poll trutherism running amok: Eugene Robinson suggests an explanation for why those polls are oversampling Dems: Maybe public perceptions of the GOP have something to do with it?

If a polling sample shows Democrats outnumbering Republicans by, say, 32 percent to 24 percent (with most of the rest calling themselves independents), GOP partisans shouldn’t worry about a conspiracy. They should worry that this is a snapshot of how Americans feel about the two major parties.

* And the rigged poll question of the day: This, from the aforementioned Fox News poll, is pretty hilarious:

Do you believe what Mitt Romney said on the tape about our country becoming an entitlement society and too dependent on government is mostly true, somewhat true or not at all true?

Really? Is that what was controversial about the freeloading 47 video?

What else?