People putting political symbols in box ©  Comstock Images, Getty Images

We're less than two months from Election Day. We haven't watched the debates. There are hands to be shaken and babies to be kissed. The campaign rolls on in earnest.

Yet the 2012 presidential contest may have already been decided by the Federal Reserve, which just delivered an unprecedentedly aggressive dose of money-printing stimulus with the aim of boosting stock prices and home values, elevating consumer confidence and boosting job growth via increased consumer spending. It will also boost exports. It will encourage new investment by businesses. And it will take the sting out of ongoing federal deficits and a rising national debt by holding down the government's borrowing costs.

In other words, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke -- an appointee of a Republican president, by the way -- has likely just delivered a second term to President Barack Obama. Cue the outrage, if there's any left after years of government meddling, bailouts, political blood feuds, and bitter partisanship.

The boost from Bernanke

I don't see any way around this reading of the Federal Reserve's actions last week. It announced that, for the third time in in less than four years, it would print new dollars with which to buy bonds in the open market. It also extended its commitment to hold short-term rates near 0% through 2015. (For more, be sure to review my recent video on the subject.)

Image: Anthony Mirhaydari - MSN Money

Anthony Mirhaydari

This differs from the $45 billion-a-month "Operation Twist" initiative (started a year ago and set to run through December) in that it involves an expansion of the Fed's balance sheet and an increase in the monetary base.

It's a much more potent macroeconomic weapon, but it can also do more collateral damage in the form of inflation (which is why gold and silver prices have caught fire lately) and currency debasement (which is why the dollar is flirting with 2012 lows). But those negatives aren't likely to be felt by voters until after the election.

In the meantime, we get the near-term "sugar high" that GOP contender Mitt Romney warned of.

This time, the focus would be on mortgage bonds, and purchases will total $40 billion a month. And this time, the commitment is open-ended and could be expanded if the job market doesn't improve "substantially" according to the Fed's announcement. Merrill Lynch economists are already talking of an expansion of the program in December, increasing monthly purchases to as much as $100 billion. Chicago Fed president Charles Evans said on Tuesday morning that he sees the Fed increasing QE3 by year end on a lack of strong job growth.

Bernanke was coy with the absolutes in the post-announcement press conference last week, leaving Wall Street with the impression he wouldn't stop his monetary flood until the unemployment rate falls to 7%, from 8.1% now. If so, purchases could total as much as $1.4 trillion. If the program is expanded, as the team at Merrill Lynch believes it will be, we could be talking $2 trillion or more -- effectively doubling the Fed's current balance sheet and the country's monetary base, both of which are around $2.7 trillion right now.

For perspective, before the recession the monetary base hovered around $800 billion. That's a lot of extra money floating around.

Depending on Uncle Sam

For Romney, this plays into his meme that America is growing increasingly dependent upon the government. One in seven Americans is on food stamps. One in 16 receives disability benefits. And as shown in the chart below, payouts of government social benefits have been growing faster than wages and salaries for most of the past 30 years.

Wages vs. government benefits

Source: Federal Reserve

Romney says that 47% of Americans feel "entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" and are dependent on government. That may well be a political gaffe and an overstatement. But what's clear is that we're increasingly dependent upon Washington to boost the value of our homes and our retirement portfolios, lifting our net worth and encouraging us to increase spending in lieu of wage and salary gains. This is the stated goal of Bernanke's latest push. And this is how it will likely win the election for Obama.

It's well known that measures of consumer confidence are closely tied to stock performance. Thanks to the Fed's actions, and the resultant increase in inflation expectations (forcing investors out of bonds and into stocks) and economic growth expectations (pushing up cyclical, economically-sensitive stocks), the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) is now within 500 points of the 14,000 level. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump over the 2007 peak to new all-time highs.

Plus, the housing market is finally showing signs of long-term healing, with the Case-Shiller Home Price Index posting its first year-over-year increase since early 2010. And the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index, which measures how the economy is performing versus Wall Street expectations, has crossed into positive territory for the first time since late 2011.

So it's no surprise that the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment survey has surged to near post-recession highs, thanks to a bounce in the expectations component. And it follows that Obama is getting a lift in the polls as more and more likely voters, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll, approve of his handling of the economy.

Back in July, as stocks were just lifting off their summertime lows and the economic data were disappointing to the downside, Romney enjoyed an eight-point advantage on the economy and unemployment. This expanded in August to a 14-point advantage. Now, Obama has a one-point lead -- a remarkable turnaround.

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The Romney team is trying to adapt and is broadening its singular focus on the economy to attack the Obama administration's record in other areas, particularly foreign policy. I don't know if the arguments in these areas are compelling enough to unseat the incumbent. But they will matter much less if the Dow crosses 14,000, the unemployment rate falls below 8% and home prices keep rising.

Stocks and funds mentioned in this article include: VelocityShares 3x Long Silver (USLV), First Majestic Silver (AG) and Caterpillar (CAT).