ROMNEY’S STRATEGY…. It often seems as if there’s an assumption in the political world about the economy: any day now, we’re start to see real improvements. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said this morning, for example, that he believes the economy is “getting ready to take off.”

I desperately hope he’s right, but it’s worth remembering that a real economic bounce is hardly inevitable. We just finished what was, by some metrics, a lost decade, and the pain may very well continue. The Fed doesn’t want to act, and the breakdown of the political process, coupled with Republican gains in November, suggests additional steps to improve the economic outlook simply won’t happen for the foreseeable future. If the economy is going to bounce back, it’s going to have to do so on its own.

That said, Frank’s not the only one who’s optimistic. Former one-term Gov. Mitt Romney (R), looking ahead to another presidential campaign, agrees that the economy will start to pick up in 2011, but thinks he can win a national race in 2012 anyway. In remarks to a gathering of capital financiers in Los Angeles this week, talked a bit about his strategy.

“I think President Obama will be difficult to beat in 2012, because I think an incumbent has extraordinary advantages. He will pull out all the stops, although he’s pulled out so many stops at this point that there might not be a whole lot more to pull out in terms of federal reserve, interest rates and stimulus and so forth.

“But he will do everything he can to get the economy going back again, and most likely — at least in my view — the economy will be coming back.”

Romney added that the White House will take credit for a growing economy, but he can nevertheless take on Obama effectively because “the American people have established a perspective on the president which is going to be lasting — that he has not understood the nature of America, in some respects, that the values I’ve described of love of liberty, of freedom, of opportunity, of small government — that those values he doesn’t share.”

A few reactions come to mind. First, I certainly hope Romney’s right about the economy.

Second, if Romney thinks he can beat President Obama when the economy’s on the upswing — by talking about “values,” no less — he’s out of his mind.

And third, Romney’s talking points appear to be askew. Jon Chait explained, “[T]he interesting part of Romney’s remarks is the implicit concession that government activism, including stimulus, can help restore the economy to health. I have no doubt that Romney understands this is true. But he seems to have forgotten the Republican line that the stimulus has either had no effect or made the economy worse.”

Well, that is the Republican line, but remember, Romeny was one of a handful of Republicans to approve of Obama’s Recovery Act last year, and predicted that the Recovery Act would “accelerate” economic growth. He was right, though his party doesn’t want to hear that.

Those candidate debates sure will be entertaining.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.