So far, the narrative of the 2012 presidential campaign has been consistent: Americans are frustrated with President Barack Obama's handling of the economy and are eager for a change, but they like him personally. That's the dynamic that has kept the president and his Republican rival Mitt Romney neck and neck throughout the summer.
But slowly, through a series of deft advertising and pinch hitting from popular former President Bill Clinton, Obama appears to be turning a corner. A new Fox News poll shows Obama leading by 5 points, 48 percent to 43 percent, but even more concerning for the Republican's campaign lies beneath the surface.
On the question of which candidate voters feel is better at creating jobs and improving the economy, the two men are deadlocked at 46 percent, according to the survey. A similar poll in June gave Romney a 7-point edge. Other recent polls have also shown Obama and Romney tied on the economic question.
And on tax policy, Obama has managed to turn a weakness into a strength, according to the Fox poll. In June, Romney was more trusted than Obama, 44 percent to 40 percent. Now, Obama leads— 48 percent to 45 percent—on that same question.
When it comes to nearly every other issue, Obama has maintained the lead he has held so far in the race. Voters prefer him over Romney when it comes to foreign policy, education, Medicare, healthcare, protecting the country against terrorism, and immigration.
The one area where Romney dominates is when it comes to cutting spending: There voters trust him more than Obama by 13 points.
Obama also is cleaning up on questions of personality when matched up with Romney. Voters in the Fox poll say he's more intelligent, honest, a stronger leader, equipped with the right experience, and a harder worker than the former Massachusetts governor.
In Michigan, thought to be a potential swing state thanks to Romney's roots there, appears to be out of reach for the Republican as well. A new EPIC-MRA poll shows Obama extending his lead to 10 points there.
There remains a silver lining for Romney in the Fox poll; he holds a whopping 25-point lead over Obama when voters were asked who better understands the principles of capitalism. The data lend credence to the advice getting doled out by conservative leaders nervous about the contest: Focus on the economy.
Almost on cue, after a day of criticizing Obama on foreign policy based on the attacks in Egypt and Libya, the Romney campaign released a new television ad focused on the recent loss of manufacturing jobs.
"Under Obama, we've lost over half a million manufacturing jobs … and for the first time, China is beating us," a voiceover intones. "Seven times, Obama could have stopped China's cheating. Seven times, he refused. It's time to stand up to the cheaters and make sure we protect jobs for the American people."
Romney has pledged to crack down on deceptive Chinese trade practices and currency manipulation if elected.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.