Then came months during which Obama sometimes talked about the economy and sometimes talked about energy and sometimes about immigration and sometimes the Middle East and sometimes about other stuff. Watching the polls, Democrats squirmed, seeing their hopes for November grow dimmer and dimmer. Republicans looked on, bewildered.

“I don’t get it,” GOP pollster David Winston told me at the time. “I don’t understand what he is doing. He’s not addressing the No. 1 issue that Americans want him to address.”…

White House officials insist these are serious policy initiatives that are not being put forth just so Obama can say he’s doing something about the economy. But that leads to the question: If these are such great ideas, why wasn’t the president pushing them earlier?

“They’ve had nearly two years to think about it, and they’ve come up with a Democrat caricature: tax and spend,” says one high-ranking GOP Hill aide.