A group of prominent Democratic strategists has a warning for President Obama and the party’s other candidates this fall: if the party doesn’t shift its message on the economy, Democrats “will face an impossible headwind in November.”   

A memo released Monday by Democracy Corps, the group headed by Democratic strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville, warns that independents are not convinced the economy is headed in the right direction. The memo details focus groups comprised of weak Democrats, weak Republicans, and independents, which were conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR) in the battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The strategists argue that focusing the economic message on “progress” misses the mark. The narrative should be proactive and instead center on “the future of the middle class” while zeroing in on programs like Social Security and Medicare.  

“We are losing these voters on the economy, but holding on because Romney is very vulnerable,” the strategists write in the memo. Romney, they claim, is “vulnerable on the Ryan budget and its impact on people; he is vulnerable on the choices over taxes. But in the current context, it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.”  

GQRR found in their focus groups that voters “are looking for the President to understand that the middle class desperately needs help and to show how the future will be better. All their ideas center on what he should do — not what he has done.”

In their focus groups, the strategists found that the Obama campaign’s 60-second spot titled “Forward,” which references signs of progress on the economy “gains no support beyond 2008 Obama supporters.”  

“This economy has made many voters feel disconnected from and at odds with the government in Washington,” the strategists conclude. “Messages that connect on a pocketbook level and commit to the programs voters rely on most have the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”