But things have taken a turn.
New Gallup polling shows, for the first time during the Obama presidency and since the recession in which it began, a majority of Americans -- 52 percent -- say their personal financial situation is getting better.
That's 19 points higher than the 33 percent who say it's getting worse. That margin is better not only than it has been for the entirety of the Obama administration, but also as good or better than it was for much of the Bush administration in the 2000s.
It's worth noting here that a neutral option wasn't asked in Gallup's question, as it sometimes is in similar polls. When it is, it often cuts into positive reviews of the economy. But forcing people to pick a side also forces people to get off the fence, and increasingly, they're getting off on the "good" side of that fence.
And it's not just Gallup. A Bloomberg poll also released Thursday showed that, for the first time in five years, more people say Obama is doing a good job on the economy (49 percent) than say he's doing a bad one (46 percent). And for a president who has long been weaker on the economy than other issues, it's now his best one -- at least when compared to health care, his work with Congress and foreign policy.
It is far too early to call this a feather in Obama's cap, especially given we just had the worst jobs report in a year last month. Combine that with continued concern about a disproportionate recovery favoring the wealthy and Obama's struggles in other areas, and the president is hardly riding high.
But on the truest measure of the economy -- whether people see it getting better for them personally -- there has been a marked shift in Obama's favor.
And the timing couldn't really be better for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Winning the presidency after a two-term president of your own party is, as we've noted, difficult. But the trajectory of views of the economy is on an unmistakable path, and the long economic lull that so often colored views of Obama's presidency can make the recovery seem that much more evident. And it's pretty clear there is still plenty of room for improvement.
To the extent that people view the economy as headed in the right direction come fall of 2016, it certainly accrues to Clinton's benefit. Because to one degree or another, she'll be tied to Obama. And the president, in large part, owns the economy.
The next 18 months is still a very long time, but change is change. And this is the kind of positive economic change that hasn't really registered -- in public opinion at least -- at any point in the Obama presidency.