My guess is that today Republicans like the New York Times more than most days. The paper’s poll this morning, in alliance with another old Republican adversary, CBS, has some welcome news for Mitt Romney.

The poll shows, and this could be filed under “duh,” that the economy is virtually the sole focus of voters and that confidence in the president’s handling of it has tracked significantly downward along with the employment figures. Today, Americans believe by eight percentage points that Romney will do a better job than President Obama in managing the economy.

Most significantly for Romney is the paper’s interpretation of the results: i.e., Obama’s focus on Bain Capital may have been in vain. The Romney campaign will rightfully use both the poll and the analysis to reassure supporters who have been distressed by the perception that the attacks on Romney’s business record were hurting.

However, the smarter players on Romney’s team will not be as smug. The poll also has other evidence that is not so good for Romney. On the question of who cares about the problems of everyday Americans, Obama leads Romney by eight points. And the poll, at first read, did not indicate whether the Bain attacks are cutting in the swing states where they are being made. The Obama campaign believes that they are.

I have long said that if voters go to the polls believing that the economy is getting worse,  Obama will lose. Or, if he wins, his victory will rewrite the laws of political physics. The NYT-CBS poll shows that voters disapprove more today of Obama’s handling of the economy than they did in April. But there are other signs that are at least mixed when it comes to the economy. Last month was the best month for housing starts in four years; according to a new survey released yesterday on the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts, most regions experienced modest growth ; and a new Gallup poll today said the number of Americans satisfied with the country’s direction is at a two-year high

Romney gets a boost today, but the long slog continues.

Note: In this morning’s post, I used the word epitaph when I meant epithet. Thanks to readers who pointed out my mistake.