Elections are always a game of comparison, but attack politics are not supposed to be part of the Obama brand, and they could be undercut by what Americans like best about him: his steady, genial calm. So why is the White House adopting this strategy? The reasons are in the poll numbers. For one, the economy remains iffy and most Americans (76 percent in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) still think we are in a recession. Unemployment remains in double digits in many states—12.5 percent in California, with many inland counties in the 20s—and state budgets will soon have to be slashed again. Public employment, which has grown in the recession, is about to shrink…

This much is clear: the president can’t lead the Democrats in the midterm elections by bragging about the stimulus. But what he can do is remind everyone of the global meltdown that clobbered us all on Bush’s watch in 2008—the consequence, in good measure of Bush policies and those of former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. And he can attack what polls show to be the least popular political entity on the American landscape: the congressional Republican Party. According to the NBC poll, only 8 percent of voters have a very positive view of the GOP.