Dickerson: Election still about the economy

Swing voters should be Romney's priority

(CBS News) President Obama and Mitt Romney are in for a protracted battle over the presidency, but the most important issue may be out of either man's control, CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said Friday.

"The lesson of history is that if voters blame you for their economic troubles, you're not going to have a second inauguration," CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said on "CBS This Morning."

"The last three incumbent presidents: (Gerald) Ford, (Jimmy) Carter and (George H.W.) Bush in 1992, the unemployment rate was at about 7.6 percent. It's at 8.1 percent today, and no president has won a re-election with unemployment rate above 7.2 percent," he said.

Dickerson told host Charlie Rose that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wants the campaign to be about one thing: a referendum on President Obama's record on the economy.

"And they'll always continue to go back to that. But the other thing Mitt Romney will do is talk about it to the extent he has to about (private equity firm) Bain (Capital) to say, I have special knowledge about the economy. I turned companies around. I turned the olympics around. I turned Massachusetts around. Pitch himself as a turn-around expert in the time when the economy needs turning around, Dickerson said.

The Obama campaign's mission is to disqualify Romney as an acceptable alternative to the president, the way George W. Bush attacked Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004, Dickerson said.

"They have to convince voters to stop looking at the present and think about the future. Voters are brighter and sunnier about the future," he added.

To see the Dickerson interview, click on the video in the player above.