Reagan's classic question could be Obama's achilles heel

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Mr. Reagan asked, dwelling on Mr. Carter’s economic and foreign policy failures. Voters decided that they weren’t, and Mr. Reagan became the 40th president.

This is one of the few stories which satisfies both those who take a more deterministic view toward presidential elections and those who instead see the results as more malleable based on the skills and qualifications of the candidates. For the former group, it is proof positive that the “fundamentals” catch up with a candidate sooner or later; for the latter, it is a testament to Mr. Reagan’s political acumen.

I take the middle view here — the fundamentals matter, but campaigns do, too. Many of these models, besides, are predicting a very close election — while the consensus view of economists is that although another recession is unlikely, the recovery is likely to proceed in fits and starts.