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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida October 22, 2012. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida October 22, 2012. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

U.S. election scorecard: Hollow debate win for Obama since Romney is ‘very much in the game’ Add to ...

Less than two weeks before American voters head to the polls, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney basically remain in a dead heat, according to an Associated Press/GfK poll released Thursday. No matter that Mr. Obama was seen as giving the better debate performance: In the AP/GfK poll, Mr. Romney is preferred by 47 per cent of likely voters and Mr. Obama by 45 per cent, a difference so slight it falls within the poll’s margin of error.

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Both candidates have hit the campaign trail with a flood of cash: Mr. Obama and the Democrats have raised more than $1-billion (U.S.) over the course of the campaign, with Mr. Romney and the Republicans close behind at $919.4-million. Mr. Romney and his Republican supporters did raise more money in the first 17 days of October: $111.8-million compared to $90.5 million that the Obama campaign raised.

The week post-debate has also been marked by some interesting headlines, including the return of the abortion debate courtesy of a GOP candidate and a Romney adviser suggesting Colin Powell, a former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, endorsed Mr. Obama because both men are black.

We invited five experts to share their Friday campaign scorecards with The Globe and Mail, focusing on post-debate spin and performance.

Who do you think won the week? Click here to vote in our poll.

David Lublin is a professor in American University’s department of government in Washington, D.C.

The Winner: President Obama. The Loser: Richard Mourdock.

President Obama’s win this week was not the product of making an all-net basket but hard clawing his way back up in the polls after his highly-damaging first debate performance.

The New York Times’ 538 blog , run by stats master Nate Silver, says Mr. Obama now has a 73 per cent chance of victory – a steady increase from the plunge to 61 per cent after the first debate, if not back at Mr. Obama’s pre-debate high of 87 per cent. The Huffington Post’s Pollster – the best poll aggregator on the net – has Mr. Obama in the lead in states containing 271 electoral votes compared to 191 for Mr. Romney.

Indiana Republican Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock gets the raspberry for raising the spectre of Todd Akin with his comments on any pregnancy resulting from rape being part of the divine plan. Mr. Mourdock may well still win, but he is doing his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and to throw Governor Romney’s campaign off its message.

Diana Owen is an associate professor of political science and director of American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Postmortems gave the edge to Barack Obama, who showed he had a command of foreign policy issues while keeping Mitt Romney on the defensive. However, the debate victory proved hollow, as poll results showed that Mr. Romney was very much in the game. Polls matter – whether they are reliable or not – because they generate big headlines.

National polls indicate that Mr. Romney has picked up momentum since the first debate; many show the candidates to be in a dead heat. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll had Mr. Romney pulling ahead of Mr. Obama in the popular vote for the first time. A growing number of voters have positive perceptions of Mr. Romney’s ability to handle the economy and his “economic empathy,” his capacity to relate to people suffering adversity. Independent voters are siding with Mr. Romney on economic issues.

Women voters are a decisive force in the election. Mr. Obama has witnessed his solid support among women voters erode. Women have warmed to Mr. Romney as they have gotten to know him through the debates. His wife, Ann, has been making the rounds of talk shows like The View and the Rachael Ray Show, where she shopped at Costco and prepared a budget meal. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is working hard to draw a distinction between himself and Mr. Romney on issues of women’s health and reproductive rights. He went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to make his position clear in siding with women: “Rape is rape. It is a crime.”

Michael Parkin is a Canadian and associate professor of politics at Oberlin College in Ohio. He studies the relationship between candidates, the media and voters.

This week goes to Mr. Romney based on expectations and momentum. While the President outscored the governor in Monday’s debate, the Romney campaign has had a slightly better week since. Mr. Romney’s rallies have drawn large crowds of enthusiastic supporters – particularly here in Ohio – which has boosted the candidate’s confidence and given him some swagger. Mr. Obama’s mad dash around the country has also generated some large crowds but it has an air of desperation to it. The president, who by his own admission “took a nap” during the first debate, is now trying to energize his base with stump speeches filled with mocking attacks and few words of inspiration. Tight poll results in a number of swing states confirm that Mr. Romney has been beating expectations and building momentum while Mr. Obama struggles to find a message that will swing things in his favour. The race is still up for grabs, and Republican comments about abortion could give Democrats a boost, but time is running out for the incumbent administration and the challenger has got the wind at his back… at least for now.

Donald Critchlow is a political historian and holds the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University.

For the 59 million watching last Monday’s third presidential debate, their preconceptions probably did not change much. Mr. Romney played it safe, trying to appear presidential. Mr. Obama hoped to land a knock-out blow or get Mr. Romney to make a game-changing gaffe. Mr. Romney did not take the bait. Mr. Obama’s comment that the U.S. military currently uses “fewer bayonets and horses” sparked a flood of Twitter comments about the employment of bayonets and horses and mules by coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The biggest news to come out of the debate was the impending budget “sequestration,” the deal Congress struck last August. The Budget Control Act imposes automatic budget cuts of an estimated $1.2-trillion (U.S.) beginning in 2013. In the debate, Mr. Obama declared that the impending sequester will not happen under his watch. He denied proposing the sequester. Journalist Bob Woodward, author of The Price of Politics , quickly declared that the idea for the sequester came out of the White House staff who insisted on heavy cuts in defence spending.

Presidential debates do not provide good venues for discussing the intricacies of foreign policy. There are serious issues having to do with American naval power, relations with Russia and China, and nuclear proliferation. But most voters remain more interested in the economy.

With two weeks left in their campaigns, both sides are worried. Democrats need to cauterize the bleeding and hold Ohio. Sensing momentum on their side, Republicans worry that an October surprise might be sprung at the last moment.

Paul J. Quirk holds the Phil Lind Chair in U.S. Politics and Representation at the University of British Columbia. A former staff member of the Brookings Institution and professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he recently became a Canadian citizen.

There were multiple ways to parse the outcome of Monday’s foreign policy debate. But in the end, new episodes of Republican rape-insensitivity and borderline bigotry cinched the week for Mr. Obama.

Although Mr. Obama by all accounts won the debate, Mr. Romney’s supporters argued that he had helped his cause simply by showing that he would be careful and competent in foreign affairs.

Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, some of his presumed allies were not so strenuously judicious. The Republican senatorial candidate in Indiana pronounced that if a woman got pregnant as the result of rape, the new human life was intended by God. Donald Trump made an absurd display, challenging the President to make public his college grades and passport records. And Mr. Romney’s campaign co-chairman John H. Sununu attributed Colin Powell’s endorsement of Mr. Obama to Mr. Powell’s race.

Mr. Romney, already struggling to distance himself from his own past remarks, was forced to spend time distancing himself from remarks by others.

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