Strategists on both sides of the political spectrum agree. King puts it simply: "Unemployment can't be at 9 percent [on Election Day]. It just can't be."
Ed Goeas, a Republican strategist and pollster, agrees and points to numbers for proof: "No modern-day president has been elected when [unemployment] was above 7.2 percent," he says, referring to President Reagan's 1984 reelection.
Using the economy as a tool and not a crutch may simply be a matter of attitude, according to King. He believes that persistent "naysaying" and "defeatist statements" from Republicans "are going to play into Obama's hands" if the president maintains an optimistic tone. That tone is exemplified by the president's constant references to the future on economic issues--whether it's investing in the future through education or creating future jobs.
However, such optimism may simply be realism in disguise. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center, "It's difficult to see how Obama could deflect attention from the economy. Presidents do tend to get assigned the blame for a bad economy."