First it was David Axelrod declaring that the election was a choice between an “economy that produces a growing middle class and gives people a chance to get ahead and their kids a chance to get ahead and an economy that continues down the road we are on, and everybody else is running faster and faster just to keep pace.” Now it is the president’s turn to lend his opponent a helping hand.

In an interview with Rolling Stone (did you hear he is “cool”?) President Obama conceded:

“Now, the burden on me is going to be to describe for the American people how the progress we’ve made over the past three years, if sustained, will actually lead to the kind of economic security that they’re looking for. There’s understandable skepticism, because things are still tough out there. You still have an unemployment rate that’s way too high, you have folks whose homes are underwater because the housing bubble burst, people are still feeling the pinch from high gas prices. The fact of the matter is that times are still tough for too many people, and the recovery is still not as robust as we’d like, and that’s what will make it a close election. It’s not because the other side has a particularly persuasive theory in terms of how they’re going to move this country forward.”

Actually, the other side has a plan (tax reform, reduce regulation, reform entitlements, open foreign markets), although the idea of reducing the public sector and boosting the private sector may not persuade him.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul reacted last night: “Following his chief strategist’s lead, President Obama made a convincing case for electing Mitt Romney when he stated the economy is ‘not as robust as we’d like.’ After three years of failed economic policies and broken promises, it’s clear that President Obama isn’t prepared to help build an economy that helps get Americans back to work.”

It’s quite a problem for Obama, isn’t it? If he insists things are getting better, people will think he’s out to lunch. If he admits the recovery is tepid, he is making Romney’s case for a change in leadership and policies. (Obama’s argument that the other guys are as clueless as he is remarkably inept.) And if he pretends the recession was worse than he thought or that it’s all George W. Bush’s fault or that this recession is somehow unique in the annals of economic history, he runs afoul of the facts (usually of no concern to him) and sounds like a whiner.

So instead he fires up class and gender antagonisms, suggests Romney is weird and out of touch, or threatens that Romney will take us back to the Bush days (where do we sign up?). I honestly don’t know how Obama is going to fill up the time between now and the election. He can only run through the excuses so many times.