After four years of devastating economic turmoil, it’s natural that much of the focus this presidential campaign season has been on the past — appropriately raising questions about whether President Barack Obama set the nation on a course to recovery, or stymied growth and dragged out the worst recession the United States has faced since the Great Depression.

Mired in two wars and ready for a change in 2008, Americans had optimistically elected a man whose idealism inspired hope that the nation could come together to weather a storm that has proven much more difficult than anyone expected. You can count us among those disappointed that economic recovery has not been quicker and more robust. It’s getting better, and in spite of the challenges here at home Obama also tackled issues related to the country’s place in the world — U.S. forces are out of Iraq, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead and we’re on a clear path to exiting Afghanistan.

But looming far larger than what we’ve already been through is the economic tumult our country faces when a series of tax hikes and spending cuts in defense and discretionary budgets go into effect on Jan. 1. Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney say they have what it takes to fix our ailing economy. We know from experience it won’t be easy, and that’s why we endorse Obama for another term. His levelheaded experience getting the country through the depths of tough times, combined with a realistic vision for moving the nation forward without leaving anyone behind, makes him the better choice for voters on Nov. 6.

Among Romney’s prime arguments that Obama’s economic path isn’t working is that people are still hurting. Romney’s taken pains, for example, to point out that despite months of steadily declining unemployment rates, Obama initially said the fiscal stimulus plan would have lowered unemployment more by now. Yet Romney hasn’t convinced us that the cure lies in his own unimaginative proposals, which present a return to tried and failed economic strategies that focus on cutting more from the tax burden of rich people he calls “job creators.” That’s what helped get us here in the first place. Try as he might to repair his numerous blunders in this regard, Romney has shown with thoughtless comments such as his belief that nearly half of Americans don’t want to take responsibility for their financial situations that he’s profoundly out of touch with how deeply damaging the divisive and reckless policies of the past have been on many people. Factor in his plans to increase defense spending and drastically reshape the Medicare system that provides health insurance to seniors, and a Romney presidency would put the future for more middle-class and low-income families in even greater peril.

What’s needed going forward instead are serious bipartisan efforts to reform entitlement programs and grow revenue. The passage of the Affordable Health Care Act that Romney wants to repeal has already made a step in the right direction — the Congressional Budget Office’s latest prediction pegs savings from the law at $84 billion, lowering the $1.4 trillion federal deficit by 6 percent. It is also expected to provide health insurance coverage by 2019 to 32 million people who wouldn’t otherwise have it.

There’s still a long way to go on the economic path to recovery and as we tread that road, America also needs a leader with a clear set of plans to make this country better for everyone. With a vision that includes better secondary education, affordable higher education and respect for people’s rights to make personal health and relationship choices, we know Obama could shape that America. Romney’s positions are less clear. We can’t tell if he’s the fiscally and socially conservative hawk he painted himself to be in the primary race or the more moderate and compassionate candidate he now claims to be. Honestly, we wonder whether even he knows, and therein lies danger — whether in domestic policy prescriptions, Supreme Court nominations or the conduct of foreign affairs. Do we want to elect a leader too easily persuaded to make bold statements and take decisive action in spite of his instincts?

Bringing the country to a place of renewed prosperity is a monumental task too big for any one man. But strong, steady leadership brings a confidence that allows people to take risks. Barack Obama has been doing that job for the past four years and he deserves four more years to finish what he started.

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