Yesterday's New York Times Magazine piece by Nate Silver, "Handicapping the 2012 Election," is fun in a crossword-puzzle kind of way, but I think it cheats a little in the way it characterizes Bill Clinton's re-election in 1996.
I agree with SIlver's general thesis, which is that the outcome of a presidential race depends more on macro factors (primarily the state of the national economy) than on campaign tactics or Electoral College strategy. As he writes, "The sophomoric strategist thinks he can slice the American electorate into a million little pieces and make it more than the sum of its parts. The smart one recognizes our common bonds."
But it seems to me that the strongest argument against the idea that the election will be a referendum on the economy is the growing polarization and partisanship in the US over the past couple of decades. The problem is that the last election featuring an incumbent Democratic president can be used to support both arguments -- that it's all about the economy and that it's all about the trench warfare between the Reds and Blues.