Nicola Lamb: Romney's self inflicted cuts may not be fatal

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Despite all Mitt Romney's self-inflicted wounds, it's still too early to wheel out an obituary writer.

With more than six weeks to go, the election is too far out and the race is too close.

Romney failed to get much of a bounce from the Republican convention but President Barack Obama has seen his own rise subside. The Democrat has a slight lead of about two or three points in national polling, down from about five or six in the week after the Democratic Convention.

Obama is not pulling away even as his opponent is being distracted by his own missteps.

The Democrats clearly have the better campaign candidate and election team but the very difficult economic conditions in the United States are keeping the race tighter than it probably should be.

Then again, were the election less focused on the economy and domestic politics and the Republican candidate less of a foreign policy lightweight, Obama would be vulnerable to questions on what's happening in the world right now.

The Afghanistan troop training mission - upon which the West's exit strategy depends - is in a mess with patrols now restricted.

And why was the US caught out so badly on the anniversary of September 11 when security should have been at its highest? Ambassador Chris Stevens, unfortunately, should not have been away from his secure Libyan embassy in Tripoli on that date. Benghazi was not safe. In June, militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a car carrying the British ambassador in the city and an explosive device was thrown at the US consulate there.

Obama has two job reports and three debates to get through before election day. There is also a vice-presidential debate. A lot could still happen.

The bright spot for the President is poll data in the key swing states.

His numbers went up in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin after his convention and have been stable. Pennsylvania, where he has a lead of about eight points, can hardly be called in play. He also has his nose ahead in Florida. Obama will win if he can maintain that.

Romney has consolidated his advantage in North Carolina and Missouri without threatening a breakthrough elsewhere.

As always, these are the most important polls to watch.

Another big unknown is turnout. Polls are showing a big gap between the casual support of registered voters and those motivated to vote. Obama tends to lead comfortably with the former and narrowly with the latter.

- NZ Herald

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