Obama Campaign Stumbles on 'Are You Better Off?'

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Once again, Republicans are asking, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" And once again, Democrats have had a hard time coming up with an answer.

The question put President Obama's team on the defensive. But in the end, voters will have the final say.

It's the classic question that sunk Jimmy Carter in 1980 when Ronald Reagan asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Like Reagan, presidential candidate Mitt Romney presented the issue to the American people.

"This president can ask us to be patient," Romney said at the Republican National Convention. "This president can tell us it was someone else's fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he'll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you're better off today than when he took office."

Top aides to President Obama and supporters struggled to answer the question over the weekend.

"Are we where we need to be? No," David Axelrod, an Obama aide, said.

"We have a lot more work to do," Obama adviser David Plouffe said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said, "No, that's not the question of this election."

Then, a complete turnaround.

"We are clearly better off as a country," O'Malley later said.

"Absolutely," Brad Woodhouse, with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said.

And Vice President Joe Biden chimed in, insisting that "America is better off today."

The president took credit for saving the U.S. auto industry, during a union Labor Day celebration in Toledo.

"I believed in you," Obama told attendees. "I bet on you. I'll make that bet any day of the week... and because of that bet, three years later, that bet is paying off for America."

However, in the most recent Associated Press-GfK poll, only 28 percent said they were better off than four years ago, while 36 percent said they were worse off, and 36 percent said they were in about the same financial position.

In addition, the Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows Romney attracting support from 48 percent of voters nationwide, while President Obama earns 44 percent of the vote.

In response to the uncertainty from Obama's aides, Romney's campaign is amping up their efforts to persuade Americans, once and for all, that Obama's economic record disqualifies him for a second term.

"You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him," Romney said at the Republican National Convention.

This week, the president gets his chance to respond, at the Democratic National Convention.

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Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.