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State of the Race: Polls tighten as presidential debates loom

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SALT LAKE CITY — With less than two months to go and both parties conventions having come to a close, the fall presidential campaign is revving up in earnest.

The race has been essentially deadlocked for months. With thanks likely due to some positive reaction at the party's convention, President Obama now appears to have picked up a slight boost in the polls.

This change hits as attention starts to shift to the debates — especially the first one on October 3.

Now that the dust has settled from the Republican convention in Tampa and the Democrats in Charlotte, the outlines of the race are clear. The president came in with a slight lead that now appears to have widened slightly. Several polls show the data the same way. For example, a new CNN/ORC survey gives Obama a 52% to 46% lead over Mitt Romney.

Now, the focus turns to a series of presidential debates — the first in just one month. "It looks like the first one will be the ball game, because that's the one where I think people will finally solidify their thoughts on these two men," said Kirk Jowers of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Presidential Debate Schedule

October 3rd Denver, CO Domestic policy
October 11th (VP Debate) Danville, KY Foreign and domestic policy
October 16th Hempstead, NY Town hall format
October 22nd Boca Raton, FL Foreign and domestic policy

The first debate, in Denver on Oct 3, will focus on domestic policy. A vice-presidential debate will take place the next week.The second presidential debate, in New York, is town hall format. Florida hosts the last one, on foreign policy.

Meanwhile, both campaigns will be vying for support from key groups — like women, who currently give Obama a slight edge.

"It's about suburban women," said NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. "In Virginia, the suburbs of Denver, the Romney campaign worries about the gender gap frankly more than any other poll number they get back in any given state. It's the reason why they feel they're a little bit behind in Virginia. It's the reason they're not fully ahead in Colorado. It's been these gender gap issues."

Obama now has a nearly 40% advantage with Latinos, who could be key to swing states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

"The issue is: Will Latinos come out to vote in the numbers that the President needs?" said Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. "And that's still up in the air."

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John Daley


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