Hot new meme: Did Obama make the recession worse, or did he merely preside over a brutally horrible economy?

So this is their counter-messaging on the seminal issue of the 2012 election, huh? “Yes, after three years of Obama, the economy’s unspeakably terrible — but he didn’t actually make it worse.”

Not completely crazy. But pretty darned crazy.

Romney expanded on that thought on Monday, again from New Hampshire:

“The people of New Hampshire have waited long enough. They want to see good jobs. They want to see rising incomes. They want to see an economy that’s growing again, and the president’s failed. He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.”

But on Thursday, when questioned by an NBC producer why he believes the Obama polices have hurt the America’s financial recovery, Romney did some back-tracking.

“I didn’t say that things are worse,” Romney said, speaking in front of the boarded-up Allentown Metal Works, a steel plant Obama once highlighted as benefiting from the stimulus.

You nailed him, guys. In the great game of assessing just how ruinous Obama’s policies have been for America’s economy, from the catastrophic new debt to the wild overestimation of how much effect the stimulus would have on unemployment, you’ve got Mitt Romney dead to rights on whether The One’s merely a disaster or a total, unmitigated disaster. GDP has grown — slightly. Unemployment is down — slightly, to 9.1 percent. At a moment when 94 percent of voters have a negative view of economic conditions, Romney will have a hard time walking away from this crash landing.

Coming soon: Did Obama cause the entitlements crisis, or did he merely prolong it to a catastrophic degree by completely abdicating his leadership on the issue?