"All of it sounds kind of desperate to be honest," said one senior Democratic hand in Washington who did not want to be quoted by name disparaging his own party. "It's really going back and dusting off our old playbook."
Read MoreWhy Democrats really need a stellar jobs report Friday
It's also not at all clear that this "Fair Shot" agenda (which is very reminiscent of Al Gore's "the people versus the powerful" campaign) can keep Democrats from losing the Senate where they face tough races including in Louisiana, North Carolina and Arkansas where appeals to the base may not be enough to squeak out close victories.
The White House on Friday was left saying what it has been saying for seemingly the last five years: This is pretty good but we'd like to see better. "This is consistent with the steady, solid recovery we've had," a grim looking White House senior economic adviser Jason Furman told CNBC from the White House lawn.
But "steady" is probably not going to be good enough for a party saddled by an unpopular health-care law and unpopular president. There is also the fact that the party that controls the White House tends to lose seats in the sixth year of a two-term president's tenure.
Read MoreShocked by Nate Silver's GOP Senate prediction? Don't be
Since World War II, only one president has bucked that trend: Bill Clinton in 1998. But Clinton had a booming economy that was growing over 4 percent. Clinton also benefited from blowback against Republicans in the House who impeached him over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
Obama will likely benefit from some anger at House Republicans—the party is held in as low repute as the president—but it is the trend in the economy that will really matter in the voting booth and right now the story is not good.