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Campaign Moods Shift as Contest Tightens


Type 40
Jul 1, 2011
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With a last aggressive debate performance behind him and 14 grueling days ahead, President Obama is now facing what he worked so hard to avoid: a neck-and-neck race with a challenger gaining ground when it matters most.

Over the last month, through the debates and a gradual moderation of the conservative tone he struck during the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney undermined the Democrats’ expensive summertime work of casting him as the candidate of and for the rich, emerging as a far more formidable opponent than Mr. Obama had ever expected.

But it is now unmistakable that Mr. Obama, who leaned forward in his chair at several points during the debate and glared at his rival, is focused on protecting some of his safest turf and Mr. Romney is seeing new opportunities to take it.

Mr. Romney is seeking to win over the last remaining undecided voters — many of them 2008 Obama supporters — by presenting himself as a credible president ready to work in the bipartisan manner swing voters crave. Mr. Obama has to keep that from happening.

And that is making for a jarring contrast during the commercial breaks — giving Mr. Romney the opening to show himself as the transcendent politician of a sort Mr. Obama has sought to be as Mr. Obama pounds away at him in his commercials.

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