Stakes Is High.

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Because of how crappy the economy’s been, President Obama‘s re-election campaign had to flip the script and change the conversation — this an election about a choice between two different visions for the country’s future, they say. They’ve tried to define themselves as defenders of the middle class on taxes, healthcare and the cost of college, and advocates for women on issues like abortion and contraception. Outside of Joe Biden’s gotcha moment during his debate with Paul Ryan, they haven’t really rode for the stimulus by name. On the other side, Team Romney’s tried to tie the sluggish economy around the President’s neck — we can’t have four more years of slow growth and high unemployment. The polls have tightened in recent weeks, but given the economic conditions, it looks like the race is probably where it should have been, and Obama was overperforming.

But it looks like the economy, while crappy, is getting less crappy every month. Derek Thompson says that we’re actually seeing a real, bonafide recovery right now:

Houses and cars make and break recoveries. In 1971, car and home sales accounted for half of the economic recovery. In 1981, they accounted for a third. But in this recovery, depressed residential investment has been the single greatest enemy of growth. That’s starting to change.

Housing starts (i.e.: breaking ground on new homes) are up 25% from last year.

There are other economic indicators that are trending positively, like the surprisingly strong jobs numbers over the last few months, lower unemployment, plus jumps in retail sales and consumer confidence. But, Thompson says, “Housing’s comeback is the most important economic story of the moment, and maybe the year.”

All kinds of international stuff could undo all of our recent economic progress, but Scott Galupo at The American Conservative points out that whomever wins the election will be able to claim credit for the rebound.

What this means is that, if he’s elected, Romney may inherit an economy that, while far from ideal, has achieved escape velocity. President Obama, meanwhile, will have borne the brunt of the nastiest crisis since the Depression and still gotten the boot. One man’s unjust legacy is another man’s just deserts, however. Recall that George H.W. Bush passed on an already-recovered economy to his successor, Bill Clinton, who in turn passed on a recession to George W. Bush.

Other morning fun-time links:

  • Sheila Johnson, who built BET with her ex-husband, Bob Johnson, thinks the network has blown its chance to be the voice of African Americans and ”reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African Americans in particular.” Yes to everything you’re thinking right now, friends.