Can President Obama win with the present economy? Many readers think the ball is in Mitt Romney’s court.

Mickeykovars writes: “It all depends on Romney. If he finds a way to rise above the character assassination of the Obama campaign, and give a picture of how things can be better, he will win. Obama’s message now is, Hey, things suck, but Romney is worse. If Obama does win, it will be a Pyrrhic victory and we will continue to sink for another four years.”

Tobit argues that Romney “Voters don’t like Obama, but they don’t like Romney either. I’ve predicted all along the race will come down to a beauty contest at the debates. But here’s where Romney has the advantage: Obama is a known: his approval won’t change much. Gallup confirms Obama’s numbers haven’t budged over the last six weeks. Obama leads in likability. That’s his advantage, and his liability. Really, he’s on thin ice if that’s all he’s got going.”

Billdemps contends: “I don’t see how the economy improves much under an Obama second term. He has not addressed the entitlement problems and continues to expand the size of government. He has increased the number of ‘takers’ and inhibited the number of ‘makers’ in the economy and that spells sure death. The specter of the economy falling off a cliff is upon us and Obama is not offering any solutions that he can persuade the Congress to pass.”

Obama supporters are equally convinced Romney has already lost it. Ladodger argues: “Obama deserves credit for steering the deepest recession since the Depression to positive growth, albeit slow.” And JLewis is convinced that “Obama has the wind at his back.”

On this one, certainty is elusive. The economy continues to act as a thumb on the scale, pushing down Obama’s reelection chances. But there is no doubt that Romney, like all challengers, has to pass muster with undecided voters, especially those elusively undecided, less engaged voters. This is what makes the conventions and the debates particularly important in this election. These are the rare and critically important moments when voters, freed from the media filter, size up the candidates for themselves. In this race, I suspect there will be many late deciders.