But even if the president sharpens his economic message, will swing voters pay attention? John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University, believes that voters who tuned Obama out after the troubled Affordable Care Act rollout still aren’t listening. “He’s got a hard time penetrating the public consciousness,” Geer said.

And agenda items like the president’s action this week on student loans aren’t going to make the difference. “It’s small ball,” he said. “It’s not going to move the needle in any way. It’s not going to change the underlying dynamic.”

Given that polls consistently show Republicans with an edge in the midterms, Democrats need to find a way to shift that dynamic, but they’re still wondering if Obama can play a leading role. Absent that, it’s the same old song: Sit and wait, and hope for the economy to show that it has turned the corner for good. That, more than anything, would really give the president something to talk about.