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Polls Show Tightening US Presidential Race

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a town hall meeting at Ariel Corporation in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, October 10, 2012.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during a town hall meeting at Ariel Corporation in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, October 10, 2012.
— In the U.S. presidential race, the latest public opinion polls show Republican candidate Mitt Romney gaining after last week's debate with President Barack Obama.  National correspondent Jim Malone has the latest from Washington.

That first presidential debate appears to have shifted the race back to a dead heat, according to several new national polls.

The latest polls from Gallup and Pew Research show Romney pulling into a slight lead over President Obama with less than a month to go until Election Day.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen's latest surveys also show Romney gaining after trailing the president for several weeks.  His latest poll has the race tied at 48 percent each.

"It has been close for a very long time and in the last week things have gotten a little bit better for Governor Romney," said Rasmussen.  "It is way too early to say that the race has been fundamentally changed.  Romney had a good night.  He is doing a little better this week, but there are still four weeks to go."

Analyst John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center says the debate boost for Romney came at a critical moment.

"I think he had been going through a rough patch and it was a very good debate and it's going to re-energize his supporters and I think also re-energize his donors," said Fortier.

Many Democrats were disappointed in the president's performance and some have been alarmed by Romney's boost in the polls.  

Fortier also said that he expects President Obama to be sharper in the next two debates.

"I think the president is probably going to do better in the future debates," Fortier added.  "He is a formidable candidate, so I expect he'll be energized and will do better debate prep and think about ways he can be more aggressive in the future debates."

A more aggressive tone from the Obama campaign might be on display as soon as Thursday's vice presidential debate between the incumbent, Democrat Joe Biden, and the Republican candidate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.

The next presidential debate will be held on Tuesday and will be a town hall meeting format where members of the audience will be able to ask the candidates questions.

The third and final presidential debate will be held on October 22 and will deal primarily with foreign policy issues.

Analyst Jennifer Donahue noted that the final debate between the president and Romney could be crucial.

"But the last one is the one that will sway swing voters," Donahue explained.  "There are five to six percent of voters who are undecided and that is where all of the election play will be.  The person who gets the most of those five or six percent will be the next president."

While the debate may be helping the Romney campaign, the latest unemployment figures could prove to be a boost for the president.

"Having the unemployment rate go below eight percent has got to be a real tonic [boost] for President Obama and his campaign," said Michael Franc with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization in Washington.  "It comes down to whether voters perceive the economy is getting better or getting worse.  Ultimately, it is can you convince enough voters that things are turning around, and those numbers actually have been ticking up somewhat for the president in the last month or so."

Both campaigns are now focused on a handful of so-called swing states where the election is likely to be decided on November 6.  President Obama maintains a slight lead in several of these states at the moment, including Ohio, where the Romney campaign is furiously trying to mount a comeback.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.

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