Republican leader Mitt Romney has just 60 days to win over the country or there will be another four years of Democrat President Barack Obama in the White House.
The two leaders are neck-and-neck in the polls on 46.7 per cent after a fortnight of conventions which appear to have failed to deliver a lead for either.
But it’s clear that Romney has the bigger mountain to climb.
It’s taken him a long time to win over the GOP and that has meant he’s not had time to broadcast his message to the wider American public. He does not have much time to achieve that task.
His main strategic aim has to be to demonstrate a credible alternative to Obama while hammering his management of the economy.
Meanwhile, gone are the days of hope when the world bought into Obama’s “yes we can” promise of a new vision for America.
The President – struggling to tell a strong economic story – has reverted to the age-old attack strategy. His campaign is largely a negative assault on Romney, trying to scare the voters into giving him four more years.
Both candidates’ wives were stars of their respective shows. Ann Romney brought her husband to life in a way few had seen previously.
Michelle Obama won plaudits globally for her support for her husband. And Bill Clinton delivered what many commentators reckoned was one of his finest speeches.
Republican running mate Paul Ryan spoke convincingly, to the party, about their economic plans while savaging the President’s leadership on the economy.
But the Republicans failed to achieve one important goal – to make election 2012 a referendum on President Obama’s economic management.
This election remains one of mixed messages and apparently competing priorities – from healthcare to abortion to education, there is little agreement.
This has allowed the Democrats to focus squarely on one thing – the threat of a Romney Presidency.
There is plenty of rhetoric about issues as we’d expect.
But the fundamental difference between Obama’s 2008 campaign is this: four years ago he painted a vision for America’s future. Now it’s the menace of Romney.
The Democrats will intensify their efforts to cast doubt on the Republican challenger’s values, morality and credibility.
In 2010, those on the Right were led by the angry Tea Party whose attacks on President Obama were personal, and at times bordering on racism, many believe.
Romney has deliberately not engaged in this kind of campaigning.
Now the tables have turned.
The President has attacked Romney personally – criticising his ethics characterising him as a wealthy tax dodger who can’t relate to ordinary Americans.
They have also pounced on Paul Ryan’s “misspeaks” to position him as a liar.
All this is fair game in politics of course, and the Republicans have not in the past shied away from doing the same.
But it’s a world away from the new politics promised by a younger Obama in 2008.
The Democrats’ strategy over the next two months will be to maintain the status quo.
They want to sew doubt in the minds of the crucial six per cent of floating voters whose support is needed for a second term.
Romney, preparing for debates in the liberal mecca of Vermont, will now need to explain his mission with clarity.
He must sharpen his knife and focus, laser-like, on President Obama’s record and his priorities.
There is plenty of material from him to work with.
The President’s choice to push through healthcare reform added an enormous burden to the national balance sheet.
His failure to reach a deal to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ marks out territory for attack, and America’s jobless rate stands at over eight per cent.
Moreover, he must expose and exploit the Democrats’ bold hypocrisy on campaign funding and closeness with business and the wealthy.
President Obama will continue to turn these issues on their heads and boast about doing the right thing with healthcare and fighting the Republican congress to prevent cuts to critical programs.
He will continue to engage in a bit of class warfare and attack Republican priorities.
There is so much noise, and untruth coming from both sides that newspapers’ fact checkers are working overtime to correct the record.
Yet, all this works in the Democrats’ favour.
Averaging of polls show that of all registered voters, 35 per cent are Democrat and 30 per cent are Republican. So, if the Democrats can maintain their support and turn out their base, they’ll already do better than the Republicans.
If the Democrats can cast enough doubt on Romney and convince the undecided to stay home, they will win this election.
It’s up to the Republicans to spend the next 60 days to create a positive alternative to President Obama and lead the charge on his record. October 3rd is his best shot to achieve what the RNC didn’t.
Meanwhile, here in the UK bookies William Hill have Barack Obama as the 4/9 favourite over Mitt Romney whose odds are 13/8.