Why the presidential race will be closer than you think

The focus over the past few months has been entirely on Romney and his shortcomings. (And, he has plenty.) But, with the general election now joined, Obama — and his handling of the economy — will take on a more featured role in the conversation.

If next month’s economic report is perceived to be as disappointing as the March report, it’s easy to see Romney narrowing his deficit against Obama or even opening up a slight lead.

And remember that most challengers to a presidential incumbent get a chance at a re-introduction to the American people, and a second (or, for many people, first) look at the nominee might actually look like a president. While the dominant image of Romney at the moment is as a diffident and out of touch executive, it’s not impossible to imagine that he could emerge from this reintroduction process as a sort of economic fix-up artist — a profile that could have real appeal to the ideological middle.

Given those realities, it’s hard to see Obama running away with a victory unless the economy begins to soar sometime very soon.