Published for the Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2012

This year’s presidential election was transformed between the first debate’s opening statements in Denver and the closing statements in Boca Raton. As a result, most of the negative impressions created by the Obama campaign’s five-month, $300-million television advertising barrage were destroyed. Seen unfiltered, Gov. Mitt Romney came across as an earnest, straightforward, thoughtful conservative with a concrete plan for the nation’s future.

Wednesday’s RealClearPolitics.com average of polls showed Mr. Romney with 48% support to President Barack Obama’s 47.1%. On the eve of the Denver debate, Mr. Romney had 46% and Mr. Obama 49.1%.

More revealing, in the past week’s 40 national surveys, Mr. Romney was at or above 50% in 11, with Mr. Obama at or above 50% in one. Mr. Romney leads 48.9% to 46.7% in an average of these surveys. At this same point in 2004, President George W. Bush led Sen. John Kerry in this composite average, 48.9% to 45.8%.

So what are each candidate’s strategies for the stretch run?

New television spots reveal the Romney campaign’s closing message. One says another four years for Mr. Obama would mean more debt, up to 20 million people losing their employer-provided health insurance, higher taxes, rising energy prices and Medicare cuts. Other ads emphasize Mr. Romney has a plan for jobs and showcase his success as a Republican governor in a Democratic state.

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