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Studies have shown that people like to vote for the winning side in elections, over and above what their political convictions are, and the mere appearance of seeming to be winning may be worth as much as a 2 per cent spike. In a country where elections are knife-edge close so often, this might even prove the difference between victory and defeat. In sheer presentational terms, the Democrats easily outshine the Republicans. Their national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a slickly professional affair, with barnstorming performances from Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton and a perfectly adequate one from President Obama himself. By contrast the Republicans seemed worthy, honest but pedestrian in Tampa, Florida; hardly ready for prime-time.

 
Unequal struggle: In sheer presentational terms the Democrat politicians Barack Obama and Bill Clinton easily outshine Mitt Romney (credit: Mark Taylor)

Studies have shown that people like to vote for the winning side in elections, over and above what their political convictions are, and the mere appearance of seeming to be winning may be worth as much as a 2 per cent spike. In a country where elections are knife-edge close so often, this might even prove the difference between victory and defeat. In sheer presentational terms, the Democrats easily outshine the Republicans. Their national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a slickly professional affair, with barnstorming performances from Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton and a perfectly adequate one from President Obama himself. By contrast the Republicans seemed worthy, honest but pedestrian in Tampa, Florida; hardly ready for prime-time.

In 2004 George W. Bush took a 2 per cent lead over John Kerry after the Republican convention, and held it throughout the rest of the autumn. Democratic pollsters are hoping that can be repeated, especially as polls show that the crucial vote-indicator question-"Who do you think would best manage the economy?"-now shows Obama and Romney neck-and-neck, whereas it had been tilting positively for Romney up to the conventions.

Although a slim majority of Americans believe that the US "is on the wrong track", the percentage has collapsed since May, when it was the opinion of nearly two-thirds of the country and a serious worry for the Obama campaign. The amounts of money raised in August evened out, with $114 million for Obama against $112 million for Romney, whereas the previous three months had seen it heavily tilted towards the latter. The fact that each campaign has spent $40 million on TV ads in Ohio alone up to the beginning of September shows how important is the state of which it's said: "As Ohio votes, so votes America."   These polls were taken before the lynching in Benghazi of the US ambassador to Libya-the first American ambassador to be assassinated since 1979-yet even those events are unlikely significantly to change the 52-39 per cent lead that Obama has over Romney among Ohio voters over who would best handle foreign policy. Obama's decision to undertake the May 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden may well turn out to have won him this election, despite his cack-handed approach to foreign policy in almost every other area of it — especially the Arab Spring.

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