Does the 2012 election more resemble 1980, or 1984? In both elections, the incumbent started the election season burdened by a poor economy and sinking approval ratings. The challengers based their entire message on their ability to fix the economy. In 1980, that strategy worked; in 1984, it failed. The difference was the economic cycle. In 1984, it was in recovery; in 1980, it stayed stalled.

Right now the 2012 election is following the same pattern. Barack Obama's approval has sunk along with the economy, and Mitt Romney, his likely opponent, is betting his candidacy on his ability to fix the economy.

That's why the recent and nascent signs of economic recovery are so interesting. The latest strong jobs report and the possibility of a state-federal partnership to help resolve the mortgage crisis are promising for Obama and potentially devastating for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has all his electoral eggs in the economy basket. He has no Plan B.