Things certainly seem to be breaking President
But before Obama supporters start measuring the
•A foreign crisis. There are several simmering conflicts around the world that could pull in the United States in the coming weeks, including the Syrian civil war and the territorial dispute between China and Japan over a small group of islands. But tops on the list of possible game-changers is an Israeli attack on
Foreign policy has generally been a strength for Mr. Obama, and Mr. Romney's efforts to score points in this arena (from his gaffe-prone foreign tour to his quick criticism of the president even as news broke about the death of Ambassador
•An economic stall. A key factor in Mr. Obama's recent success in the polls has been his ability to chip away Mr. Romney's advantage on whom voters trust more to manage the economy. Growth remains weak and unemployment remains high, but voters have historically been more interested in the trajectory of the economy than its actual status on Election Day.
Given the stops and starts of the economic recovery, it's certainly possible for that perception to change in the next month. Continued trouble in the Eurozone could quickly upend American markets — and given last week's anti-austerity protests in Greece, it's clear the political and economic situation there has not stabilized. And there will be two U.S. jobs reports between now and the election — one of which will come out the Friday before voters head to the polls. The August report was weak, showing just 96,000 jobs created. If the numbers dip further (certainly a possibility, given the uncertainty over the mandatory budget cuts and tax increases scheduled to go into effect at the end of the year), voters may be more receptive to Mr. Romney's economic message, particularly if he provides more specifics about his plans.
•The debates. Presidential debates don't usually determine the course of an election, though there have been some notable exceptions, such as the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. Still, Mr. Romney proved an adept debater during the Republican primaries, and he has been deeply enmeshed in preparations for next month's meetings with President Obama. Mr. Romney has been sparring with Ohio Sen.
•The open microphone. Mr. Romney's campaign was upended by the secretly recorded "47 percent" remarks, and Mr. Obama is just as capable of being caught saying something that rubs much of the nation the wrong way. There was the 2008 description of rural Pennsylvanians as "bitter" and "clinging" to their guns; the exchange with Samuel Wurzelbacher ("