Wait, hasn’t Obama been endlessly claiming the economy has recovered?

Via National Journal:

From time to time, we all read something where suddenly words jump out from the page, grabbing our attention. This happened to me the other day while reading a memo from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville, along with two of their colleagues who work for the Democracy Corps, Erica Seifert and Fredrica Mayer. […]

One of the most useful things that the Democracy Corps does in its polling, like other high-quality pollsters for both sides, is to test various messages for each party, ascertaining which ones are more salient than others. Sometimes messages may sound good, particularly to folks inside the Beltway, but when actually tested with real voters, the response isn’t always as anticipated.

The key phrase in the Greenberg/Carville memo was, “As a start, Democrats should bury any mention of ‘the recovery.’ “ The full paragraph went like this:

Democrats have to be hard-hitting and focused on the economy. As a start, Democrats should bury any mention of “the recovery.” That message was tested in the bipartisan poll we conducted for NPR, and it lost to the Republican message championed by Karl Rove. The Democratic message missed how much trouble people are in, and doesn’t convince them that policymakers really understand or are even focusing on the problems they continue to face. That framework gets in the way of a direct economic message.

Technically speaking, the recession lasted 18 months, starting in December 2007 and ending in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of when business cycles and recessions begin and end. That 18-month duration is not quite twice as long as the 11.1-month average length of economic retraction in the 11 business cycles since 1945. From a political perspective, what a cross section of American voters think of the economy matters more than a panel of the top economists. Last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 57 percent of Americans believe we are still in a recession; just 41 percent say we are not, with pessimism just gradually diminishing over the last few years. It is what average people think that’s important, not what economists say.

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