THE RACE: Both sides focus on ads, retail politics

Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gets out of his vehicle as he boards his campaign charter plane in Bedford, Mass., Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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With the conventions over and the first debate still three weeks off, few immediate catalysts loom to change the dynamics of the presidential race. So expect a multi-million-dollar blitz of advertising and heavy on-the-ground campaigning in the days ahead — centered mostly on battleground states.

As of now, the election still appears headed for a photo finish — pretty much just where it was four months ago. That raises the importance of the upcoming debates — three presidential and one vice presidential.

A Gallup poll released Sunday showed President Barack Obama opening a five-percentage point lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney following last week's Democratic convention. Other major polls have yet to register such a blip.

That didn't stop the Romney campaign from engaging in some Monday morning damage control.

"Don't get too worked up about the latest polling. While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly," Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said in a memo to "interested parties."

For the next few weeks there are no big events on the horizon likely to move the needle. The next unemployment report — the economic report most closely watched — is not until Oct. 5 after last Friday's lackluster August jobs report. The first of three presidential debates is Oct. 3.

Meanwhile, Obama and Democratic partners on Monday reported raising more than $114 million in August, outpacing Romney for the first time in three months. Romney and Republicans raised $111 million in the same period. However, Romney has more money on hand than Obama.

Romney was campaigning Monday in Mansfield, Ohio, a key swing state. Running mate Paul Ryan had fundraisers in Oregon and Washington. Neither Obama, who spent the weekend campaigning in Florida, nor Vice President Joe Biden had any scheduled public appearances.

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Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum. For more AP political coverage, look for the 2012 Presidential Race in AP Mobile's Big Stories section. Also follow https://twitter.com/APCampaign and AP journalists covering the campaign: https://twitter.com/AP/ap-campaign-2012

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