WASHINGTON - Former governor Mitt Romney returns from his overseas trip this week to resume talking about a four-letter word that's been missing from Barack Obama's vocabulary: jobs.
His mid-election trip abroad hit some bumps in the road but nothing of any consequence that's going to become an issue in a campaign year that is totally fixated on Obama's recession-teetering economy.
While Romney was gone, the nation's barely breathing economic growth rate slowed to virtually comatose levels -- 1.5 percent in the second quarter with bleaker forecasts for the next three months in the 1 percent range.
Life in Obama's economy, now in its fourth year, is going to get worse. The Labor Department's report this Friday is expected to continue an unbroken string of puny monthly jobs numbers that will keep unemployment rates above 8 percent for the rest of the year and next.
While the nightly network news shows devote their air time to the occasional gaffe or irrelevant stories about the ups and downs of the marathon race, voters were worried about more important things: finding a full-time job, talk of impending layoffs by year's end, struggling with declining incomes.
This week, the Gallup Poll released a revealing survey of which issues concern Americans the most. Incredibly, none of them draw much attention on the nightly news or from Obama's campaign.
At the top of the voters' list of priorities: creating jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and four straight years of $1 trillion-plus budget deficits. Make that 5 years. It was announced this week that Obama's budget deficit will be over $1 trillion in 2013.
What are the issues at the bottom of the voters' list of that elicited their least support? Global climate change and raising taxes on wealthier Americans. The two issues that the network news shows and Obama's campaign spend a lot of time talking about.
But the American people know better and must shake their heads in dismay at the often nebulous network news menu that is dished up each night -- carefully avoiding any issues that might make Obama look bad.
Tens of millions of Americans are suffering from Obama's economy. The Gallup poll proved that in a new nationwide survey Tuesday that delivered another dose of bad news to the White House.
"Americans' economic confidence declined last week to -29, erasing all improvements from the previous week and matching levels not seen since early January," Gallup said. "Republicans' and independents' confidence is at its lowest levels of 2012."