More terrible economic news: orders for durable goods dropped by 13.2 percent in August. This is the worst durable goods report in almost four years.

Hadley also comments today on our awful GDP numbers.

It will be hard for President Obama to spin these numbers—luckily for him, he probably won’t have to. The mainstream media will help him by tucking any unfavorable news between now and November 6 in out of the way places.  

For example, today’s online edition of the Washington Post relegates the durable goods report to the business section, which means people won’t see it if they just skim the newspaper’s homepage (where you can read about ad discounts that may give Obama a cash edge, another article on Obama’s Medicare edge, and a report on those NFL refs).

Presumably, many citizens, especially those who don’t have jobs, of us know how bad things are without reading about it in the Washington Post. Nevertheless the president isn’t being challenged on this abysmal economy. Many voters have bought the soothing notion that nobody could have done better, not even Bill Clinton, so no change is necessary.

There is only one man who can put this issue to the front burner where it can receive appropriate scrutiny: Mitt Romney. Daniel Henninger in today’s Wall Street Journal shows how both candidates have so far failed to address the economic issues confronting us:

Barack Obama has reduced the whole economic record of his first term to one word: Bush. He's talking about the next U.S. economy, in which, he says, some people will be making windmills. Or capturing the rays of the sun.

His rebooted challenger, Mitt Romney, led an audience in Nevada last week through his plan to revive the economy. Mentioned first, and so presumably most important, he'd pursue "energy independence." Second most important: Crack down on trade "cheaters." That would be China, which is a long way from Vegas.

Romney, whose campaign has people wondering “Where’s Mitt?” and whose wife has gone on TV to talk about how hard it is to campaign (my heart breaks), has just about one shot left: the debate, which takes place in Denver next week. Henninger writes:

Next Wednesday night, these two will be hauled onto a stage in Denver for their first debate on "domestic issues," a euphemism for the economy. Nothing—and that includes Jim Lehrer—can make these two talk about the economy as it's understood by the average American voter. But the odds are Mitt Romney will talk about it and Barack Obama won't.

Mr. Obama will stay on message in Denver, redirecting his opponent and interrogator to the economy before he was president (or even in politics)—"challenges that have built up over decades"—and about the wind-driven economy that will exist after he's re-elected. But not about the economy in between. If this were an episode of "Homeland," Mitt Romney's first question to his evasive competitor would be: "Mr. President, what are you hiding?"

It's true, as Mr. Obama argues, that the numbers of unemployed Americans began to rise abruptly after September 2008 when the financial crisis erupted, and that the president's name then was George W. Bush. What Mr. Obama won't say is that the financial crisis resulted from the implosion of a housing market transformed into a toxic landfill by Congress, regulators, Fannie, Freddie and mortgage packagers. The Bush presidency was a bystander.

Also left unsaid by Mr. Obama but free for the telling by Mr. Romney is that as the U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.5% in June 2009 and a shocked public was looking for a response, the new president introduced the Affordable Care Act. Whatever else one may say about ObamaCare, it has nothing directly to do with U.S. employment. For the next nine months, as unemployment ran between 9.5% and 10%, Congress at Mr. Obama's insistence worked on his health-care legislation. When Mr. Obama signed the bill into law in March 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.8%. If an opponent wanted to describe this in partisan terms, he might say that the president legislated an entitlement dream while the economy burned.

Last Sunday in his "60 Minutes" interview, Mr. Obama referred vaguely to "some emergency actions" he took to deal with the post-2008 economic crisis. His primary emergency measure was the $831 billion stimulus bill, which was written by House Democratic committee chairmen and passed in February 2009, a few weeks after his inauguration. As a partisan might put it, the Obama-Pelosi stimulus was a fire-and-forget ballistic missile shot into the economic ozone. Even today, no one knows where the stimulus landed. There was also cash-for-clunkers.

Romney will have to seize the initiative because moderator Jim Lehrer is a liberal who is very likely to pose questions in a way that is more beneficial to the president.

But it's up to Romney. He won’t be talking to an empty chair Wednesday night. He’d better make the best of the opportunity.

Hat tip: Hot Air