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In 1992, Bill Clinton won the presidency by focusing on “the economy, stupid.” Some analysts think that all presidential elections turn on economic conditions. It seems certain that this year’s campaign will be fought on that terrain, with Mitt Romney arguing that Barack Obama’s policies have failed and Obama countering that the economy is recovering, or it isn’t his fault, or both.

For the past three years, politicians and pundits have been watching a “recovery” that feels like a recession. Economic output has grown since the middle of 2009, but only fitfully, weighed down by a depressed housing market, buffeted…

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