One of the more interesting things about politics is that if you can control the question, you have a decent shot at controlling the answer.
Republicans are unanimous in framing the presidential election as a referendum on how well Obama has done fixing the economic mess he encountered upon entering office. If they are successful in framing things in that way, Romney probably stands a good chance of winning in November.
It doesn’t quite work for the GOP to ask Americans if they are better off now than they were four years ago, the famous Reagan line, because it simply reminds people that Republicans are responsible for the recession.
Republicans just want people to think about this moment in time and not how we got here. Republicans are counting on a disease from which Americans frequently suffer called “voter amnesia.”
Obama has the harder task because it requires people to think back, to put things in context, to exercise critical judgement. Obama has to get people to understand that our economic crisis is the child of policies promoted by Republicans. Harkening back to George W. Bush is not about Obama refusing to take responsibility for his own actions, but of the President trying to point out that Bush and Romney belong to the same tribe and would push the same idea of government, the one that has created so much misery.
Obama has the harder task because voters have a notoriously short attention span. It’s much as babies respond to unwanted stimuli. When they are unhappy they want something to change. It frequently doesn’t matter what the change is as long as they are momentarily distracted.
Perhaps the point is: He who asks the simplest question, gets the prize.
(Cross-posted at Lippmann’s Ghost.)