The two rivals for the White House plunged into the final, two-month stretch of the presidential campaign at the weekend, with early polling suggesting that the post-convention boost that failed to materialise for Mitt Romney may be doing so for Barack Obama in the wake of his party's gathering in Charlotte.
Republicans sought to play down any new momentum for the other side, going so far as to suggest voters were impressed not so much by Mr Obama, who drew mixed reviews for his speech in Charlotte, but rather by former president Bill Clinton, who raised the roof the day before.
"He did stand out in contrast with the other speakers," Mr Romney said in an interview with NBC. "I think he really did elevate the Democrat convention in a lot of ways and frankly, the contrast may not have been as attractive as Barack Obama might have preferred if he were choosing who'd go before him and who'd go after him."
That Mr Clinton has serious lifting power is something Camp Obama won't hesitate to capitalise on, however. They are sending the former president to the crucial state of Florida early this week. Mr Obama spent all the weekend on a bus tour through the Sunshine State, at one point dropping in unexpectedly on an Orlando bar and trading jokes with patrons watching an American football game on television.
Showing some connection with ordinary Americans is particularly urgent for Mr Romney, who courted race fans at a Nascar race in Virgina (pictured). He is hampered by his wooden style and his enormous personal fortune. It was a problem that Ann Romney, the candidate's wife, picked up on in a television interview yesterday saying her husband had been "demonised" by the other side.
"Mitt and I do recognise that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives," she said on NBC. "But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. And our struggles have not been financial, but they've been with health and difficulties in different things in life."
Meanwhile, a Reuters-Ipsos poll at the weekend showed Mr Obama widening his lead over Mr Romney by 47 to 43 per cent.
Mr Romney is casting Obama as an ineffective steward of the US's post-recession recovery, while the President is decrying his rival's remedies such as tax cuts as throwbacks to George W Bush's administration.Reuse content