Then there's Romney's even more damaging handicap: the all-too-real legacy of the Man Who Wasn't There: George W. Bush.
Purely as a thought experiment, how do you suppose the national political press would be playing the story if Bill Clinton had been persona non grata at the Democratic convention? If his name was never mentioned? If he failed to appear with President Obama at a single political rally?
Truthfully, we'd hear of nothing else. Yet Clinton left office a dozen years ago; Bush only four.
But Bush has gone down the memory hole, excised like one of those Soviet apparatchiks airbrushed out of ceremonial photos with Comrade Stalin. Winston Smith, contact the Ministry of Truth.
Polls, however, show that people haven't forgotten. Asked who's to blame for the nation's shaky economy, more than 2/3 of Americans in a 2012 Gallup poll found Bush largely responsible for digging the hole Obama hasn't yet dug the country out of.
Parsing a number of recent surveys, it looks as if pretty much everybody who's immune to the alien usurper version of Obama peddled to the GOP base is inclined to cut him some slack.