ANAYLSIS: Though the last two weeks' political headlines have been dominated by a major foreign policy crisis -- and its subsequent fallout on the campaign trail -- and a hidden-camera video that captured Mitt Romney at his most candid, it's unclear whether either media fixation will matter all that much in the places where this election will be won or lost.
Places like Fairfax Station, Va. where, as ABC's Amy Walter reported earlier this week, Mary Barker, a 60-year-old retired school librarian simply won't commit to voting for President Obama on Nov. 6 like she did four years ago.
Barker and other swing voters from northern Virginia who took part in a focus group sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said she believed the economy was improving, but didn't give Obama much credit for it. And when asked what she thought of the president's speech at the Democratic National Convention just a few weeks ago, she told moderator Peter Hart, "I wanted to be inspired, but I wasn't. Where's the beef. Something was missing."
Voters are singing a similar tune in other parts of the country, and in particular, the battleground states that will ultimately tip the scale for either Obama or Romney on Election Day.
Take Wisconsin. Obama has the support of 50 percent of likely voters there compared to 45 percent who are backing Romney, according to a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll. Recall that a Republican presidential candidate has not won the state since 1984 and that four years ago Obama beat then GOP challenger John McCain by a solid 56 percent to 42 percent margin.
"President Obama has a narrow lead in a state he handily carried last time," Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion said. "There is slightly greater enthusiasm of Romney backers over Obama supporters, but it's not enough to tip the scales in Romney's direction."
And that's the rub for Romney. It's not just Wisconsin where the latest polling shows him trailing the president -- it's almost all the other key swing states too.
Yesterday's NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll found Obama ahead of Romney by five percentage points, 50 percent to 45 percent, among likely voters in Colorado and by eight percentage points in Iowa where Obama's lead stands at 50 percent to 42 percent over his Republican challenger.
And a series of CBS News-New York Times-Quinnipiac University polls out last week also gave Obama the edge in Wisconsin and Colorado as well as Virginia where Mary Barker is still making up her mind.
The next few weeks are shaping up to be a race to the battlegrounds with Romney's campaign vowing a new strategy that includes a more intense pace on the campaign trail. The GOP candidate campaigns in Nevada this afternoon and will head to Colorado this weekend to hold his first public campaign event there since early August.
And for both candidates, there is little time to spare: Absentee ballots have already been mailed out in North Carolina and early voting starts today in South Dakota and Idaho. The first debate -- held in hotly-contested Colorado -- is just 12 days away and Election Day is only about six weeks off.