Romney capitalises with lead of 4 points

In the first national poll to be conducted entirely after the opening US presidential debate, Mitt Romney now leads Barack Obama by four points.

The poll, conducted by Pew Research Center from Thursday through Sunday and released yesterday, shows Romney leading Obama among likely voters nationwide, 49% to 45%, a stark contrast from Pew’s mid-September poll after both parties’ conventions, which showed Obama up eight points among likely voters.

The dramatic 12-point swing in Pew’s poll from Obama to Romney is perhaps the strongest piece of evidence to date that Obama has paid a political price for his listless performance in the first presidential debate in Denver.

With just four weeks to go in the White House race, Romney was in Virginia yesterday trying to bury the memories of his fumbled summer trip abroad and knock Obama back on national security.

“Hope is not a strategy,” he said in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute.

The campaigns already have eyes on the next debate, the sole face-off between vice-president Joe Biden and Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, which will grab attention as the Thursday night showdown nears. As ever, the election hangs on persuadable voters in fewer than 10 states.

Obama yesterday was declaring a monument at the home of Latino labour leader Cesar Chavez, who died in 1993.

Sure to appeal to Hispanic voters in swing states, Obama’s move came at the start of a day in which he would raise political cash at events in San Francisco.

Romney was after the bigger stage of the day. His foreign policy speech sought to send tough signals on Iran and Syria and portray Obama as weak for his administration’s changing explanation for the deadly attacks on the US consulate in Libya.

Romney has tweaked his message over the last week, highlighting his compassionate side and centrist political positions.

Obama, taking to the Nokia Theatre stage on Sunday after some musical stars performed, said the entertainers seemed to have flawless nights all the time.

“I can’t always say the same,” he said. Everyone seemed to get the joke.

Romney told a crowd of over 12,000 supporters in Florida that he had exposed Obama’s shortcomings. “And next January,” he said, “we’ll be watching him leave the White House for the last time”.

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