10/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Are America's Best Days Behind Us?

"How do we get back?"

That is the question of the hour. How, after last week's pitiful and painful collapse of our financial system, can we set the clock back and either right the wrongs, or simply rise above them?

Perhaps, for the first time in our nation's history, there is no answer. Perhaps there is no getting back to where we were. Perhaps, like our international standing, our vaunted military prowess and our enviable protection of civil rights, our unrivaled economic success is over. The wheels have fallen off, we've run out of track -- however you want to say it, maybe, just maybe, America's greatest moments are behind us, and the rest is an increasingly steady slope downhill.

Of course the idea that America has peaked is by no means an original one, but according to a new poll by Kelton Research, six in ten (60%) Americans agree that the United States will never regain the economic prosperity it once experienced (full disclosure: I am currently employed by the research firm). Surprisingly, that number rises to 65% when only polling women, compared to 56% of men. The poll, taken during the Dow's dismal days early last week, comes at a particularly key point in time, as the Sarah Palin story has been pushed off the front pages of newspapers around the country, and the economy has returned as the major campaign issue of the moment.

As many observers pointed out last week, the change of topic seems to be benefiting the Obama campaign. When asked which of the two presidential candidates would best be able to help the American economy recover from the current crisis, 42% of respondents put their faith in Obama, compared to just 30% who said McCain would be best. The Democratic Party also scored highly, as half (50%) of Americans say that the Dems better understand the issues that affect their daily lives, while only 31% believe that the Republican Party is the more empathetic of the two parties.

Aside from the economy, McCain may have other troubles. After a flurry of media reports in the past week criticizing the content of some of McCain's campaign commercials, it seems that Americans are beginning to openly question the veracity of the attack ads against Obama. Nearly six in ten (59%) Americans agree that many of the recent commercials produced on behalf of the McCain campaign have contained lies about Obama's record. Furthermore, almost a quarter (24%) of men strongly agree with this statement, and 19% of women feel the same.

While much of this information would seemingly help Obama pull away in the national polls, it doesn't take a seasoned political watcher to know that today's hot story can quickly become yesterday's news. McCain's reported toying with the truth has already largely been forgotten, trapped below a flurry of economic stories and worries, and with the Treasury bailout plan expected to go through this week, and the population's short attention-span, there's no guarantee that the economy will still be the issue du jour come November, either. And let's not forget, "surprise" season begins October 1st.