Public-opinion polls in the United States show a virtual tie in the political campaign between incumbent President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. The race has taken a decidedly negative turn in recent days.
This year’s campaign is largely being fought out on the television airwaves, with both the Obama and Romney campaigns relying on attack ads to soften up the opposition.
The Obama campaign is going after what is supposed to be Mitt Romney’s strength - his record as a private businessman before he became governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
As he campaigns around the country, President Obama is urging voters to reject a return to Republican policies on the economy.
“I promise you we will be finishing what we started in 2008. We will not be going backwards! We will be going forward," he said. "And we will win this election.”
In his campaign appearances, Republican Mitt Romney is trying to keep the election focused squarely on the president’s economic record, which public opinion polls indicate is a huge problem for Obama.
“His priority is not creating jobs for you. His priority is trying to keep his own job," he said. "And that’s why he is going to lose it!”
Analysts say the Obama campaign has been somewhat effective in focusing the debate on Romney’s business background and his reluctance to disclose more than two years of his income tax returns.
“There is a race to define Mitt Romney to the American voter, and the race is between the Obama people who want to define him negatively and the Romney people who want to define him positively," said Peter Brown, pollster for Quinnipiac University. "The campaign that does the best job defining Mitt Romney is going to win.”
Some prominent Republicans have urged Romney to release more tax information. Most but not all recent presidential candidates have released several years of tax returns, though Republican John McCain released only two years of his tax returns in 2008.
As for the Obama attacks on Romney, analyst Charlie Cook says the president’s campaign has little choice but to go on the offensive.
“He has got to basically discredit, disqualify Romney to win this," he added. "Because this is an economy that for anybody who is president of the United States right now would have a really, really hard time surviving this.”
The president and his Democratic allies want to make 2012 a "choice election," says John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
“Well, Republicans are hoping it is purely a referendum on the president, and the president is going to try to make it something of a choice between his record and what he is going to paint as extremism on the Republican side,” Fortier said.
Romney’s next big decision is choosing a vice presidential running mate, with most of the speculation focused on Ohio Senator Rob Portman, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.