Does Mitt Romney have President Obama right where he wants him? Or is it the other way around?
With under a month to go before Election Day, the polls are jumping around all over the place, but even Democrats acknowledge the race is tightening.
Yesterday's Pew Research Center poll was the latest example of that. In the poll, taken in the days immediately following the first presidential debate, Romney pulled ahead of Obama among likely voters, 49 percent to 45 percent, and the two contenders were tied among registered voters at 46 percent.
That marked a boost for Romney who trailed Obama 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters and 51 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in a mid-September Pew survey.
The question now is where the bouncing polls end up close to Nov. 6.
There's plenty of evidence that the Obama surge in September was driven by an increase in Democratic enthusiasm. The Pew poll suggests that Romney's surge is driven by a boost in GOP enthusiasm.
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"There are now as many strong Romney supporters as strong Obama supporters -- a wide gap in every earlier poll," a Pew associate researcher told ABC's Amy Walter. "And the GOP has re-opened a wide lead in engagement -- the share of Republicans 'giving a lot of thought' to the campaign spiked from 73 percent to 82 percent, which helps Romney with the likely voters numbers."
And in our own ABC News-Washington Post poll out today, ABC News Pollster Gary Langer notes that Romney has reached his highest level of favorability of the campaign. But, then again, so has Obama. Romney is now seen favorably by 47 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 51 percent. Meanwhile, the president is viewed favorably by 55 percent of registered voters compared to 44 percent who see him unfavorably.
"Obama's 55 percent favorability is numerically its highest since spring 2010," Langer notes. "Romney's 47 percent favorability is numerically the most in 18 ABC-Post polls since September 2011. But he remains underwater for the 13th time in those 18 surveys."
The biggest test for Romney, however, remains Ohio, where he and a campaign surrogate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are stumping today. Both sides say they have seen tightening here even before the debate. And the Romney campaign is pointing to stories like the one in yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer that showed Republicans out-pacing Democrats in absentee ballot requests in largely Democratic Cuyahoga County -- the state's most populous.
According to the Plain Dealer's Henry J. Gomez, "36 percent of registered Republicans had asked for absentee ballots as of Sunday afternoon, compared with 32 percent of registered Democrats."
But to win the Buckeye state, Romney needs to do more than inch up the numbers or win the early voting race. The Republican nominee has got to re-make his image which has taken a pounding by relentless attacks by Democrats.
Can he show Ohioans that he shares their middle class values? Or have Ohioans already formed a solid opinion of him that can't be changed in the last four weeks?