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The economy is slowly, tentatively recovering. Rather than roaring to life with historic gains, this recovery is more like someone who, after months of being in bed with a horrible illness, finally feels well enough to sit quietly out in the sun for an hour in their bathrobe.

But I’ll take what I can get.

First, we’re seeing a small-scale return of real estate demand. It’s nothing near 2005 levels, but investors in certain areas are snapping up lower-end properties with the intent of either turning them into rentals or remodeling them for a quick flip. Either way, demand is slowly rising, particularly in some of the spots hardest hit by the bubble, including Phoenix.

Recently, the Dow closed at a four-year high, and while unemployment numbers are still spiky, we’re no longer bleeding jobs the way we were three years ago.

However, this recovery is so uncertain, so fraught with other factors that could bring it down (record-high gas prices, lower consumer confidence) that it is anyone’s guess where we’ll be at this time next year.

Yet I choose to be optimistic. For the upcoming presidential election, Barack Obama is going to work overtime positioning himself as someone who saved us from a worldwide depression.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, his opponent, no doubt will claim that the economy is still ailing and he’s just the man to fix it. But whatever the voting outcome brings, the election itself may well provide a bump in our collective fortunes. In a survey published by a group of financial advisers, 56 percent of investors believe this election will improve our economic outlook regardless of who wins.

But perhaps most telling is that lately, when I talk with pool builders and retailers, they are reporting almost to a person, that things are improving in their markets. The mood out there is decidedly more upbeat than in recent years, and hearing people in our industry talk about the future with hope is like seeing the first signs of spring after a long, hard winter.