IF YOU WANT to know why Team Obama has relentlessly hit Mitt Romney on Bain and his taxes, this latest snapshot on the economy gives you the answer.

Declining confidence in the nation’s economic prospects appears to be the most powerful force influencing voters as the presidential election gears up, undercutting key areas of support for President Obama and helping give his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, an advantage on the question of who would better handle the nation’s economic challenges, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Despite months of negative advertising from Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies seeking to define Mr. Romney as out of touch with the middle class and representative of wealthy interests, the poll shows little evidence of any substantial nationwide shift in attitudes about Mr. Romney.

But with job growth tailing off since spring and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, wondering aloud whether the labor market is “stuck in the mud,” the poll showed a significant shift in opinion about Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, with 39 percent now saying they approved and 55 percent saying they disapproved.

Staying away from polls on the economy is impossible now, because with all of the negative advertising and incoming directed at Team Romney, gaging whether it’s working in these snapshot polls is critical, as is assessing if Pres. Obama’s is being dragged down by reality. The economy is certainly an anchor, which doesn’t surprise me, while Romney’s favorability is sagging, which may get worse if his campaign continues down the road of John Sununu and Romney’s latest “foreign” patter. The Bain attacks are working in battleground states, according to recent reports, but we’ll have to see if that continues, as the economic news gets bleaker (which Ben Bernanke isn’t helping).

But a report from Ryan Grimm and Abby Huntsman reveals something else about Mitt Romney, which I recently pointed to, but now we’ve got the quote. That is the fact that Romney never thought he’d be pushed to reveal multiple years of tax returns in the first place. So the constant drumbeat coming from Republicans has got to be nerve-racking.

Mitt Romney has been determined to resist releasing his tax returns at least since his bid for Massachusetts governor in 2002 and has been confident that he will never be forced to do so, several current and former Bain executives tell The Huffington Post. Had he thought otherwise, say the sources based on their longtime understanding of Romney, he never would have gone forward with his run for president.

So, what is Mitt Romney’s plan now? To laugh it off, saying in a local interview in Ohio, “It’s kind of amusing.”

The question is, will he get away with it?