The Obama campaign’s assertion that the economy is heading in the right direction is bunk, as the latest economic numbers show. The Wall Street Journal reports: “Orders for long-lasting goods plunged in August as commercial-aircraft purchases tumbled and demand for other items tailed off, the latest sign of a weakening manufacturing sector.” Specifically, “The nation’s gross domestic product — the broadest measure of goods and services produced in the U.S. — grew at an annual rate of 1.3% between April and June, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The revised figure is down from the previously reported 1.7% gain. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a 1.7% growth rate for the quarter. Orders for durable goods, products designed to last at least three years, fell 13.2% last month to a seasonally adjusted $198.49 billion, the Commerce Department also said.”

We are quite simply going backward in President Obama’s “recovery,” not “forward” as his campaign slogan implores us to believe. The durable goods number is “the biggest decrease since January 2009 and the lowest dollar figure for new orders since February 2011.”

It is hard to argue in fact that we aren’t much worse off than a year ago. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the GDP was growing at 3 percent. In the first quarter of this year, GDP was growing at only 2 percent. In March of this year ,we added more than 200,000 jobs. Now we are virtually at a standstill, with growth falling close to 1 percent and job growth under 100,000 per month. Whatever brief rebound the economy might have enjoyed is gone, and the trajectory is not likely to change unless our fiscal policies change. The president’s promised tax hikes and Obamacare burdens are low-hanging fog over a dreary economic landscape.

The Romney camp jumped on the news, putting out a statement: “The Obama economy is officially stuck in neutral. The nation’s second-quarter GDP growth was slashed to 1.3% and manufacturing orders plummeted to their lowest point since President Obama first took office. It’s clear our nation’s job creators and manufacturers can’t afford another four years like the last four years. As president, Mitt Romney will deliver a real recovery, with 12 million new jobs, higher take-home pay, and a stronger middle class.”

Obama’s recovery has been a bust. Whether Romney can make that clear to the American people and then present an alternative to the voters remains to be seen. Byron York is right in pointing out the campaign has frustrated its supporters in its “oscillation between a more and less aggressive stance” on the issues. (Most glaringly and inexplicably, the White House misrepresentations about Libya haven’t yet gotten on Boston’s radar screen.) We’ll see if the Romney team, which has gotten more specific on its economic message in recent days, will use the real news to wipe away the phony image of an economy heading in the “right direction.”