The Campaign Enters the Ninth Inning

The conventions are over, the debates are finished, and early voting is well under way. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are neck and neck in the polls. The next ten days will seal the deal.

The two campaigns both act as if they’re ahead. Maybe they both believe it. Both candidates are criss-crossing the only eight or nine states that matter. Romney appears to be drawing bigger crowds. Both are putting out their closing arguments in different ways.

Romney laid out his five-point plan for the economy in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. He’s been flogging it in the debates and on the campaign trail ever since—and he’s made several “tweaks” or flip flops along the way.

President Obama, who was vague in his convention speech and didn’t elaborate on it much in the debates , has responded to criticism he doesn’t have a second-term agenda by flooding the swing states with 2.5 million printed color brochures laying out his own plan to fix the economy “from the middle class out.” I’ll have more to say about both plans next week.

Mitt Romney and President Obama at the second debate at Hofstra University. Photo: Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America.

The president says he took office under very difficult circumstances and we’ve made  progress since then. We should stay the course and not hand the country back to the people who got us in this mess in the first place.

Romney claims the “progress” made in the last four years is unacceptable and we can do better with the right policies and leadership. He says the president hasn’t brought the change he promised, and in several important ways—unemployment, poverty, food stamps, and income—we’ve gone backward.

In the next week and a half both campaigns will try to get out the vote and persuade the few remaining undecided voters. The president’s team is far ahead in the former, with massive databases and organizations in all the key states.

Romney’s smashing victory in the first debate has given wavering voters “permission” to fire the incumbent. The challenger’s momentum has slowed since then, but I suspect more undecideds will break his way—and tens of millions of dollars of ads will help grease the skids.

There’s more and more talk of a split vote, in which one candidate wins the Electoral College and the other takes the popular vote. I hope that doesn’t happen—one Bush v. Gore in a lifetime is enough.

We’ll be tracking it all next week—with brand new electoral and Senate maps and an exclusive poll of investors’ opinions. We’ll also do a final assessment of these two candidates and how they might govern over the next four years, so please stick with us through the home stretch.

As they said in that movie, fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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