As two major developments become increasingly likely - a Democratic presidential victory on November 4 and a sustained economic crisis - Barack Obama faces a difficult choice: does he begin now to prepare the electorate for tough times, or does he continue to maintain a politically contrived optimism on the assumption that he can shift gears after election day.
The short-term incentives are all on the side of maintaining a happy face: As things stand, Obama keeps moving ahead in the polls, winning debates and expanding his hold on battleground states. Why junk a winner?
Conversely, Obama and his aides have to calculate how the rhetoric of his campaign will influence his ability to govern. On this score, there is wide disagreement, with political scientists, strategists and political analysts - in responses given to the Huffington Post - all over the map.