“At some point, it’s hard to spin your way out of a trash heap,” said Drew Westen, an Emory University clinical psychologist who studies the role of messaging and emotion in politics.

Obama’s “fundamental error,” Westen said, was not blaming former President George W. Bush and conservative lawmakers early enough and often enough in his term for creating the country’s economic troubles before he got into office.

“It’s too late to make that argument now,” said Westen, who has consulted with House and Senate Democrats on messaging on health care and energy issues. “It just sounds like sour grapes. Whether it’s true or not, it sounds like sour grapes.”…

But Obama isn’t even selling well the victories he has scored, most notably the automobile industry bailout, said Greg Haas, a Columbus-based political consultant who co-ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 Ohio campaign.

“They’ve got to make that penetrate and really articulate what they did, what the payoff was,” Haas said. “And right now there’s actually more coming from the other side in terms of framing that argument. If that happens, they can’t win.”