That would play into the underlying Republican argument: Obama has had his chance, and if your life isn't better, it's time to kick him out.
In turn, Obama always tempers his remarks about the economy, even with the trends in his favor.
As he put it on Friday: "There's still far too many Americans who need a job, or need a job that pays better than the one they have now."
Nine months before Election Day, the nation is split. Obama's approval rating has improved over the past few months, rebounding from lows reached last summer, though it has not turned positive. The latest Gallup tracking poll finds the public torn on his performance, with 45 percent saying they approve and 48 percent disapproving.
For every number about how things are getting better, another is available for sobering perspective — and political opportunism.
Obama made a point Friday to say that the economy had added 3.7 million private sector jobs over the past 23 months. Yet overall, the nation has about 5.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the giant recession began in late 2007.
A better direction for the economy is not all that Obama promised.
When he was a new president, Obama told NBC's Matt Lauer that people were going to start seeing progress in a year from his policies.
Then he added: "If I don't have this done in three years, then there's gonna be a one-term proposition."
The three-year mark is here, and voters will soon decide on the one-term part.
The answer may well come down to which economy they're voting on — the one they see now or their faith in the one ahead.
EDITOR'S NOTE — White House Correspondent Ben Feller has covered the Obama and Bush presidencies for The Associated Press.
Follow him at http://twitter.com/BenFellerDC
An AP News Analysis
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