The construction employment figures are the key to this
If you look at graphs of construction employment over the past 10 years, you can see that over half of the changes in the unemployment rate during that time can be accounted for by the construction industry alone . Construction typically leads in recoveries, as low interest rates lead to more construction activity. Problem is, that doesn't work when the recession was caused by too much construction in the first place, thus explaining why the low interest rates have not helped this recovery like they have in the past.
From the post 9/11 recovery up until unemployment started creeping up in late 2007/early 2008, the construction industry was very overemployed to support the housing bubble. Now because there are still more houses than are needed (in many areas, not all) the construction industry is quite underemployed. As the excesses are worked through in more areas and reach a "normal" (i.e. sustainable) amount of construction, that industry will hire more workers. And having more money to spend, those newly employed workers will help other businesses through their spending, rather than increasing the deficit by collecting unemployment or welfare.
This will happen in the next four years regardless of which guy wins, but you can be sure the guy sitting in the White House will take credit for it. I think both parties realize this, which is why they believe it is a particularly important election. If Obama loses, the republicans can point to the recovery as "proof" their plans worked, whatever they do. Likewise, if Obama wins, the democrats can point to the recovery as "proof" that Obama's policies were right all along, and they just needed more time to take effect, as he's been trying to argue lately.
Neither party wants the other in power when the economy recovers, as it will lead a long term shift in party affiliation, just like happened in the early 80s when Reagan presided over the last major recovery (which was mainly engineered by the Fed raising interest rates sky high to kill inflation with some credit due also to the stimulative effect of massive defense spending increases) The only thing that has left the democrats competitive in the face of this shift has been the fact that the population growth has been mainly latinos, who tend to vote democrat to a large degree. If Obama wins, and takes credit for the inevitable recovery, the republicans are going to have to make major changes in the makeup of their party to be viable - they probably will have to do so eventually anyway, but this would hasten that day.
It is stupid that people blame or credit the president for stuff like unemployment or gas prices, but that just shows the stupidity of the average voter, and why campaigns are insulting to those with higher than average intelligence (which on a site like The Reg, is probably 99% of us, Apple v. Android fanboy wars notwithstanding)