This presidential campaign may come down to which referential president most inspires the American public.

John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE often mentions Teddy Roosevelt as his idol. But our national economic picture is reminiscent of the Depression, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered hope by national intervention while Herbert Hoover wallowed in non-functioning Republican economic policies. Hoover argued that the economy was “fundamentally sound,” reportedly; sound familiar?

McCain has spoken of Teddy Roosevelt as his rough maverick model, but Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaModerate or left of center — which is better for Democrats in 2020? Obama: Countries facing severe effects of climate change offer 'moral call to rest of the world' Democrats' self-inflicted diversity vulnerability MORE has the better model in FDR. In this time of economic distress, we need smart, sophisticated, public-spirited leadership. If Sen. Obama can communicate with the American public as the patrician FDR did, assuage its real fears, and bring to bear on the economy the resources of government, he’ll win.

It isn’t easy to capture the imagination of the public on economic issues. The candidates have the public’s attention on this issue. The problem is offering hopeful — not pandering — solutions that the public can comprehend. The public understands natural disasters and responds impressively. We can see the dangers and damages a hurricane causes. Seeing an economic disaster, and comprehending the relief that addresses it, is much more difficult.

Sen. Obama has the better Roosevelt to tap into, and he should do so.

P.S. On this blog on Monday, I urged Sen. Obama to conduct a widely viewed economic summit, soon, to describe proposed answers to the current economic collapse. I would add to that the suggestion that at this summit, he suggest New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as his proposed secretary of the Treasury, and state the programs that his administration will propose to go forward with its economic relief program on day one. The outlines of these programs would be discussed at this summit, so it is clear this administration has answers, in contrast to Sen. McCain’s suggestion that a commission be appointed to find the problem.