These should be good times in the White House. The GOP primary process has tarnished the party brand and shows no signs of producing a strong contender for 2012. The headline unemployment rate dropped below 9 percent last month, and the threat of a 2012 recession, barring further madness in Europe, seems to have receded. Foreign policy is generally working for the President at this point. The strategy in Afghanistan isn’t flourishing, but the public has largely tuned that out. On Iran, he can point to progress. Asia looks good.On paper, this is a White House in recovery; with a weak opponent and falling unemployment, the horizon looks brighter for the Obamans than at any time in the last six months.But as this piece from the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein points out, the unemployment rate no longer fits facts. Unemployment is dropping because people are dropping out of the labor market. Using historical figures, the unemployment rate is 11 percent; if more people get back into the workforce as the recovery continues, the headline unemployment rate could actually rise — during the election year. People feel worse than the numbers show, and they are likely to continue doing so for some time. This is why the President’s poll numbers aren’t going up, and this is why next November is still very much up in the air.The Carter team, we should remember, rejoiced when Ronald Reagan got the nomination. He was too extremist, they exulted, and too weighed down with baggage to win a general election. History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it plays enough tricks of that kind that the White House isn’t getting much sleep.