The two main candidates in the race for the White House took a back seat for one day yesterday as their running mates as they prepared for their one and only vice-presidential debate in Kentucky last night. Both sides, meanwhile, were able to take some heart from the newest polling intelligence.
While viewers and pundits will this morning score the face-off between Vice President Joe Biden and the Republican number two, Paul Ryan, attention will start to turn quickly to next Tuesday and the pressure that will be on President Barack Obama to improve on his disastrous performance in Denver last week.
In an interview with ABC News, Mr Obama acknowledged that the first debate with Mitt Romney was not his finest hour, but he struck a confident note. “Governor Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It's not the first time I've had a bad night,” he offered. “Maybe this is because I played a lot of sports when I was a kid, and still do. If you have a bad game, you just move on.”
He also argued that the encounter had shown Mr Romney's tacking towards the centre away from is real convictions. “What's important is the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed,” he contended. “You know, Governor Romney went to a lot of trouble to try to hide what his positions are.”
The evidence mounted that Mr Romney's Denver showing has given him new momentum including in the latest Ipsos-Reuters tracking poll that had him leading Mr Obama 47 per cent to 44 per cent nationally. More telling, however, may be a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey of three key battleground states that seemed to uphold Mr Obama's contention that the race may not have been so significantly altered.
The numbers showed Mr Obama holding onto a decent if slimmer lead of 51 per cent to 45 per cent in Ohio. Without Ohio, Mr Romney's path to victory will be steep. The two men were statistically tied in Florida, with Mr Obama two points ahead, and in Virginia, where he was one point behind.
Moreover, the polls showed that the numbers of voters who said the Denver debate had influenced them was in single digits. “Most people already picked sides,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.
Mr Romney has come under pressure to explain why he told a Des Moines newspaper this week that as president he would not support legislation narrowing abortion rights - or challenging the Supreme Court Roe Vs. Wade ruling upholding abortion rights - contradicting his previous statements on the issue.
“I think Governor Romney has made very clear that if a bill comes to his desk that overturns Roe vs. Wade he will be fully supportive of that,” Mr Obama said. “And he's said, 'I will appoint justices that will overturn Roe - Roe vs. Wade.' And now four weeks before an election, he is trying to cloud the question.”