James Carville's polling firm to Obama: Nobody believes that the economy's recovering anymore

Tough stuff from Team Serpenthead. What’s a president to do when he can’t run on the idea that America’s better off now than it was four years ago? Simple. Run on the idea that America will be better off four years from now if it gives him another term. 2008: The future is now. 2012: No, wait, we mean the future is now.

Hope and change — they’re always a day away.

What is clear from this fresh look at public consciousness on the economy is how difficult this period has been for both non-college-educated and college-educated voters – and how vulnerable the prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders are. We will face an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative, one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.

It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance – and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction. They are wrong, and that will fail. The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the President talk about the future. They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand. They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way – not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery…

These voters are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction. They are living in a new economy – and there is no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country. They actually have a very realistic view of the long road back and the struggles of the middle class — and the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.

Do voters really “want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way”? I thought the whole point of our national non-debate over entitlement reform is that voters don’t want to know the plans, and when someone like Paul Ryan tries to interject with a solution, Obama and the Democratic brain trust demagogue him to within an inch of his life in hopes of gaining a cynical advantage in November. Even Carville’s dumb memo notes with glee how Romney “is vulnerable on the Ryan budget.” In fact, given the results in Wisconsin and the 50 car pile-up that is the eurozone, I’m thinking that Democrats talking about the future is possibly the worst thing they could do right now. What future? The future where the blue social model suddenly becomes magically sustainable, despite all domestic and international evidence to the contrary? As Ross Douthat said after Walker’s victory:

The House Republicans have spent the past two years taking tough votes on entitlement reform, preparing themselves for an ambitious offensive should 2012 deliver the opportunity to cast those same votes and have them count. The Senate Democrats, on the other hand, have failed to even pass a budget: There is no Democratic equivalent of Paul Ryan’s fiscal blueprint, no Democratic plan to swallow hard and raise middle class taxes the way Republicans look poised to swallow hard and overhaul Medicare. Indeed, there’s no liberal agenda to speak of at the moment, beyond a resounding “No!” to whatever conservatism intends to do.

Go figure that when Carville’s firm asked its focus groups who’d do a better job on the economy, they said Romney. And go figure that the big speech on the economy that O has scheduled for Thursday is “not expected to introduce any new policy positions or prescriptions.” We had to pass ObamaCare first to find out what’s in it and, I guess, we need to reelect Obama first to find out what he has in mind for a second term. Things can only get better. Right?