With slim chances the nation's economic picture will improve dramatically by November, strategists say Obama must more forcefully convince voters that Romney is an unacceptable alternative in the Oval Office, regardless of their personal financial situations.
Obama campaign officials hinted that the president would use his Ohio speech to continue that approach, casting Romney's economic proposals as "familiar and troubling: More budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy; fewer rules for Wall Street -- the same formula that benefitted a few, but that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class."
Obama will argue that he's moving the country forward and needs more time to turn things around, aides say.
Still, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found the president facing deep skepticism about his economic plans less than five months before election day. Fifty-four percent of swing-voting independents see Obama's economic plans negatively, with just 38 percent holding a positive view.
Romney also has a negative rating on his economic plans but by a smaller margin -- 47 to 35 -- with more undecided voters. The dynamic affords Romney an opening to make his case and win support in the weeks ahead.
Overall, Americans respond negatively rather than positively to Obama's economic proposals by 50-43 percent, and to Romney's by 47-37 percent. The poll, conducted June 6-10, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
"What can they say, what can he do? Congress won't pass anything that he puts out there; the House will barely consider it. They're not going to help Obama. They're delighted he's in the situation he's in," said Larry Sabato, a political analyst and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, of Obama's economic plans.
"Any bits of data that are good [over the next five months], they have to spend money to push out there. They can't depend on free media to do it. They're going to need speeches, campaign events and TV advertising to get the good news out there to try to create the belief in just enough people in the swing states," he said. "They have to use what they're given. It's a bit of luck now."
White House allies and veterans of Democratic presidential campaigns insist there is no reason for panic and still plenty of time for Obama to make his case.
"If this was a baseball game, the Obama team would still be winning by a couple runs in the fifth inning and they may have not scored more runs in the fifth but they're still winning the game" said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network and member of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign team, citing electoral map and recent polling data in swing states.
"We're at the beginning of this message season. They've got plenty of time to develop messages with the electorate and they do have a plan that's going to move the electorate through stages of understanding about Mitt Romney," he said.
"What they're doing now at this stage in the evolution is spending a lot of time talking about Mitt himself and his bad ideas. The way they're going to explain Mitt's bad ideas is by his embrace of the [Rep. Paul] Ryan budget plan. That's where this is headed," he said.