From a Democrat's perspective the presidential race has become more nerve-wracking than a lot of folks wanted or expected.
The past month has seen Obama pouring on the heat in advertising dollars (double Romney's ad expenditures) in an effort to "define" Romney in a negative way.
The result appears, at the moment at least, to have had some perverse effects.
A number of Romney's popularity numbers versus Obama's have improved, nationwide, on issues such as likeability, the economy, jobs, Wall Street and even foreign policy.
That is hard to explain, other than to believe that many people really may not care about Romney's wealth, his tax returns and his Bain record.
It even suggests that perhaps Obama's ads strengthened some peoples' perception that Romney is a smart money man and may be the right guy to fix the economy -- which obviously is far and away the number one issue for the election.
If all this supposition is correct, it probably was not too clever of Obama's campaign staff, who are otherwise using much the same playbook that got him elected four years ago, despite the major differences that exist today.
Perhaps Obama has been playing a waiting game and delaying bringing up his real and important campaign message. But, the longer he waits, the harder it may be to get back into a fully competitive position.
He has let himself become defined as a guy who wants so badly to be reelected that he is unwilling to take a principled stand for the good of the country. Consequently, the odds may be flipping from 'the election is his to lose' -- to 'the election is his to try to snatch back from defeat.' That has to be dealt with ASAP.
Obama's dilemma is this. Does he:
1. play it close to the vest and try to eke out an electoral victory in the eight swing states?, or
2. take a clear, firm stand and make the election a choice on his plan to fix the economy?
It appears he may be trying to finesse that choice with a characteristically risk-averse strategy. That could be a big mistake because that is what he is charging Romney is doing too.
Sometimes a leader really has to risk what he really wants in order best to show voters how, at the end of the day, the election is not just about holding his job, but is about doing the job that people and the country need and want done!
It is perfectly clear from extensive evidence in the record that Obama's plan for the economy is essentially a balanced approach, very close to the bipartisan Simpson/Bowles plan that first was unveiled well over a year ago. It is a rational combination of targeted, though limited, tax increases, carefully selected decreases in defense and domestic spending, and some important additional stimulus, such as infrastructure, which we must do sooner or later in any event. Only that type of balanced plan can properly address the fiscal challenges that surely lie ahead and restore economic and financial stability to the country.
The time is right for Obama to speak to all the people in all 50 States -- not just those in eight swing states -- to say exactly what his plan is and to challenge Romney to be just as clear and forthright about what he would do with those same challenges.
Romney can be flushed out, and if he is, or is not, that surely will benefit all the voters of the country by making the choice clearer.
That could give Obama the lift he badly needs at the moment to build on that basic policy theme all the way to the election.
It is hard to imagine this country doing anything other than voting for a balanced plan. By now, virtually everyone must know about the cliff. Virtually everyone also knows that there has to be a plan to save us from an unnecessary manmade disaster.
Overall, and despite all, the vast preponderance of the middle 40 percent of the electorate are rational and reasonable people who are not inclined to extreme views or solutions. All they need in this crucial election is to be given a clear choice of substance -- not just illusions fed by Madison Avenue advertising experts.
This election really needs to be much less about money spent, and more about the clarity and substance of each candidate's message.