A very smart take on what is going on:
Greg Sargent: Why the weak economy hasn’t (yet) doomed Obama: The distinction between whether voters have decided Obama has failed, or whether they have decided he has merely disappointed them by falling short of expectations, an outcome these voters have come to see as understandable, given the circumstances.
Republicans will scoff at this distinction…. But this may reflect what Jonathan Bernstein has described as the “conservative closed information feedback loop,” in which the widespread presumption that swing voters see Obama in the same terms conservatives do precludes a clear-eyed assement of real voter perceptions. To be clear, undecided voters may still end up deciding Obama’s failure is sufficiently evident that it merits casting him out. But it’s not clear they have decided he failed yet, and dismissing this as a factor misses what may be the real reason the economy has yet to doom Obama — and why he may be able to prevail in spite of it.
Republicans often acknowledge that voters appreciate the scale of the mess Obama inherited. But they quickly rejoin that what matters is how he responded to it…. It’s very plausible that in spite of their own disappointment, voters have adjusted their expectations downward as to what presidents can do for this economy as they came to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis. This came up again and again in conversations that Ron Brownstein, Matthew Dowd, and yours truly had with undecided voters. These voters are unhappy with Obama. But they have not yet decided Obama’s approach is discredited. Their declining expectations have left them open to the argument that even if they disapprove of the current economy under Obama, Romney doesn’t have the answer either, and that Obama's approach still has a better chance of bearing fruit over time.
Indeed, it’s not clear either candidate has won the argument about the economy. In the latest Post poll… the two are tied on which man’s election will result in an improved economy…
Failing to appreciate this nuance — and operating from the assumption voters think Obama is an abject failure — could… lead Romney to overestimate voter disagreement with Obama’s ideas and vision; to imagine he needs to do less to articulate an alternative vision of his own; to underestimate Obama’s chances of fighting him to a draw on the economy; and to downplay the importance other issues — as well as the tattered GOP brand — could have at the margins if Obama does manage that.