weak (photo: breahn / flickr)

The Department of Commerce is out with new economic growth numbers that are tepid at best. According to the department, real gross domestic product grew at only 1.5 percent in the second quarter. From the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 1.5 percent in the second quarter of 2012, (that is, from the first quarter to the second quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 2.0 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the second-quarter advance estimate released today is based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 3). The “second” estimate for the second quarter, based on more complete data, will be released on August 29, 2012.

Even if the number is eventually revised slightly upwards in the future, it will still be generally disappointing. The economy remains in a deep hole, it will take a very long time to get out of it with this level of growth.

While this is technically better than expected, the vast majority of Americans don’t follow market predictions and will take little solace in that fact. Their reality is that the economy is still painfully sluggish.

There is a lot of other issues dominating political coverage, and some of it may even have a real impact on voters, but this is what is going to dominate the election. The simple fact is that the economy has been in very poor shape the entire three and a half years President Obama has been in office and there is zero indication that it will get any better before November.

The best defenses Obama can even try to levy are that his actions made the economy less horrible than it would have been and that Romney would do even worse. That is a very tough thing for an incumbent to run on. Neither defense is very “hopeful.”