Making Americans feel uncomfortable with Romney, in other words, won’t be enough if the economy keeps sputtering along. What Obama needs, instead, is to make voters fear a Romney presidency, even more than they fear four more years of high deficits and slow growth. And a re-election campaign that focuses on gay marriage, or the Dream Act, or birth control, or how Romney treated his dog and high school classmates is unlikely to stoke that kind of fear.

What might? Well, in a pocketbook election it helps to focus on pocketbook anxieties. It’s true that every day the White House spends talking about social issues is a day it isn’t stuck talking about the economy. But it’s also a day when it hasn’t talked about how Mitt Romney wants to take away your retirement security to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

This is a predictable Democratic argument, and a demagogic one. But it’s an argument that might actually make economically stressed Americans afraid of what a Romney presidency would bring.

Instead, Obama is currently running for re-election as an opponent of sexism, homophobia and social reaction in all its forms.