When he launched his re-election bid in Columbus last month, President Barack Obama introduced a one-word, bumper sticker sales pitch for a second term: “Forward.”

But when he returns to Ohio this afternoon for a campaign rally at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Obama is expected to sound like an incumbent who has one eye firmly fixed on 2008 in the rearview mirror.

Better off today than you were four years ago? That’s a tricky question for the president to answer. He has struggled recently to articulate an economic message that resonates with voters — a dynamic amplified last week in the wake of disappointing employment numbers and Obama’s maladroit declaration that the private sector is “doing fine.”

So rather than offer specific new proposals for four more years, Obama today is likely to dwell on the recession he inherited from his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, according to Reuters. The wire service based its reporting on conversations with unidentified Democrats “familiar with the preparations for the address” at Tri-C.

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