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U.S. election scorecard: Romney can't shake the spate of bad luck

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is joined by vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan at a campaign rally at the airport in Dayton, Ohio, Sept. 25, 2012.

BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS

After a long stretch of unfavourable headlines and growing chatter that the White House is slipping away from Mitt Romney's grasp, the pressure was on this week for the Romney campaign to change the script.

Both presidential candidates held duelling events in must-win Ohio on Wednesday. The next day, they did the same in Virginia.

All eyes are on a handful of key battle ground states. And as it turned out, fresh polling in those states made the job of changing the narrative very difficult for the Romney campaign.

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So who won the week? Below, four experts share their Friday scorecard with The Globe and Mail.

Do you agree with our experts? Tell us who you think won the week.

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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.

I would give the edge to the president this week.

Obama's numbers in key battle ground states like Ohio and Florida are starting to strengthen – they now represent more than an ephemeral post-convention bounce. I'm getting the sense that, at least here in Ohio, things are starting to come together for Obama.

This is not to say that the election is over – far from it. Romney had a reasonably solid week with strong appearances at the Clinton Global Initiative and the Education Nation forum in New York which garnered him relatively good national press coverage.

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However, a campaign stop in Ohio this week gave us a hint of one of Romney's key weaknesses. Romney appeared with Paul Ryan at a rally near Dayton in which the crowd chanted "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan" before Romney awkwardly reminded them that it was "Romney-Ryan."

The fact that a presidential candidate needs to remind his supporters that he is the top of the ticket is a real problem. It shows just how much Romney struggles with retail politics and the fact that many Republicans seem to trust Ryan's conservative credentials more than they trust Romney's. These are both serious problems for a candidate already trailing in the polls.

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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.

Romney made no new mistakes this week. He just kept paying for some of the ones he made earlier.

Considering the week's new developments only, Obama encountered the greater difficulties. The administration admitted a terrorist role that it had initially denied in the attack on the embassy in Libya. The admission strengthens Republican criticism of Obama as failing to provide adequate security at the embassy.

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In his interview on 60 Minutes [last Sunday], Obama referred to the fatal attack as a "bump in the road," and he dismissed criticism from the Israeli Prime Minister as irrelevant "noise." In other circumstances, such events would have amounted to a rough week for Obama. Instead, it was splendid for him.

For one thing, pundits jumped all over Romney for a supposed gaffe about airplane windows that was, in fact, obviously a joke. This has happened to him before (about Michigan trees being "just the right height"). The lesson: for a gaffe-prone candidate, sly deadpan humour doesn't work.

Far more important, however, Obama hammered Romney for his leaked rant against the 47 per cent of citizens who do not owe personal income tax and for his proposal — tied to the dubious selection of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee — to transform Medicare into a voucher program. Polls this week showed that both issues are big winners for Obama, and Romney slipped to his largest polling deficit of the entire campaign.

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Donald Critchlow is a political historian and the Barry M. Goldwater Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University. He sees a presidential campaign sorely lacking in specifics.

This week went to Obama. Polls showed him gaining strength in the swing states. Republicans continued to disparage these polls as too heavily weighted Democratic. There was a single fact that should have left Republicans worried: Independents shifted toward Obama.

Romney became more aggressive in his attacks. In response, Obama continued to play it safe with emotional appeals to his base. Neither candidate wants at this point to offer specific policy proposals as to what they might do if they won election.

Rhetoric won't solve soaring budget deficits, catastrophic national debt, slowing GDP slipping toward recession, crashing entitlement programs, and world tensions that should rattle the calmest of people. At this point whoever wins this election is not going to have a mandate for addressing these problems.

Voters can only hope that after next week's debates that real solutions will be put on the table. The response from the other side might be 30-second attack ads. At least the electorate will be presented with a real choice.

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

The horse race to the White House favoured Barack Obama this week.

Polls in battleground states showed Obama pulling away from Mitt Romney. Obama also benefited from his appearance on The View with his wife, Michelle. He was relaxed and relatable as he sought to solidify his strength among middle class female voters who supported him strongly in 2008.

Obama faced press criticism for choosing show business over foreign affairs as he skipped parts of the UN General Assembly meeting. World leaders may have felt snubbed, but The View appearance clearly was a boon to his campaign. American voters are far more interested in watching Obama give The View hosts gifts of home brewed beer and tackle questions about the U.S. economy than in foreign policy.

The Romney campaign cannot seem to shake the spate of bad luck that has plagued it over the past few weeks. Republican leaders are distancing themselves from what they perceive to be a sinking ship. Rumors are flying about tensions between Romney and Paul Ryan. The situation was exacerbated when a satirical piece in Politico stating that Ryan refers to Romney by the nickname "Stench" was treated as fact by major news outlets and blog sites.

It is going to take a major turn of events — at the very least a stellar debate performance — to turn the tide for Romney.

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About the Author

Affan Chowdhry is the Globe's multimedia reporter specializing in foreign news. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked at the BBC World Service in London creating international news and current affairs programs and online content for a global audience. More

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