President Obama and his team believe that if this is an election about a choice between two directions for the country he’ll win. Mitt Romney and his crew believe (at least, they used to) that if they can make this election a referendum on Obama’s job performance and stewardship of the economy they’ll win. According to the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, Obama is doing well on both fronts.

Click here to see the poll. Then go to page 8 and scroll down to Question 11. Now, follow along.


Is the country better off now than when Obama became president? “Better off” gets 38 percent, up seven points since last month. “Worse off” gets 41 percent, down one point since last month.

Obama is viewed as “better prepared” to lead the country for the next four years by 47 percent of respondents. That’s an 11-point advantage over Romney.

Will the nation’s economy get better, get worse or stay the same over the next year? “Get better” gets 42 percent, up six points since last month. “Get worse” gets 18 percent, the same as last month and down seven points since July.

Is the economy recovering or not recovering? “Recovering” got 51 percent, up one point since last month. “Not recovering” got 45 percent, down one point.

Obama’s approval rating on his handling of the economy rose three points to 47 percent. Disapproval dropped three points from 54 percent to 51 percent.

A lot of these numbers are nothing to cheer about. And on top of it all, the right track (39 percent)/wrong track (55 percent) numbers are terrible. But the right-track number is seven points higher than last month and the wrong-track view dropped six points. Despite a nation still in economic pain, the president’s overall job approval rating hit 50 percent for the first time since March. That’s up 2 percentage points since last March.

Under the old rules of presidential elections, Obama should be toast with no hope of electoral recovery. But Romney has failed to make this a referendum on the president. When given the choice, respondents in the survey side with Obama.