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An encouraging economic story to tell

<p>There's been an interesting trend in the news recently when it comes to the American economy: it's been pretty good.The retail

There's been an interesting trend in the news recently when it comes to the American economy: it's been pretty good.

The retail sales figures released yesterday were even stronger than expected, and the industrial production figures released this morning also exceeded expectations. We learned last week that consumer confidence has reached a five-year high, while the federal budget deficit, initial jobless claims, and the overall unemployment rate are all at four-year lows.

With this in mind, I'd say President Obama has an economic case he can and should make.

This Obama campaign ad was released yesterday, and features regular folks talking about the economy looking up in their communities. One mentions a parking lot that was once empty starting to look full; another mentions a plant that's added a second shift. A third person explains, "When you look at the president's plan I don't think there can be any question that we're on the right course for today's economy."

I realize the larger political dynamic that makes the pitch difficult. Obama and his team realize that with high unemployment and sluggish growth, there are still a lot of struggling families who don't want to hear the president boast about how much conditions have improved. Much of the country is still deeply frustrated with the status quo, and reject the idea that it's "morning in America."

That said, Obama has an entirely credible case to make: after inheriting the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the president took the lead in saving the nation. Nearly four years after taking office, by literally every relevant metric, the nation's economy is stronger and more secure than it was when he started.

If Obama struggles to present these facts, Mitt Romney will gladly define the status quo for him in a far less flattering way. As Ari Berman explained yesterday, "The last four years have taught us that if Obama doesn't forcefully make the case for his own policies, no one else will.... Instead of running away from the economy, as the conventional wisdom suggested Obama had to do when he launched his re-election bid, Obama should be forcefully campaigning on the progress made so far and the unfinished work still left to do."