It's all about message discipline as President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney square off for the endgame of their presidential race.
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a dead heat, with Obama and Romney tied among registered voters at 47 percent each. And neither side appears willing to take big risks to shake up the race. That means a day-to-day slog toward Election Day and a seemingly endless cycle of charges and counter-charges.
The Democrats and Republicans are using their own sets of themes time and again to solidify support from their core voters and appeal to independents and swing voters in the battleground states, such as Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and Iowa.
Much of what is going on now is pure posturing, because there is little or no chance that Congress will overcome its deep divisions and pass any major legislation until after the November balloting.
Obama has returned to his familiar mantra of seeking to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year and cut taxes for the middle class. He will emphasize this again in a series of appearances this week in Iowa and Virginia, and in taped interviews Tuesday with local TV anchors in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada. His overall goal is to shift attention away from the nation's current economic woes and portray Romney and the GOP as advocates of the rich and powerful, while he defends Middle America.
Romney replies that Obama has failed to heal the economy and the election should be a referendum on the incumbent's disappointing record. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who previously made a fortune as an investor, says it would be bad for the economy to raise taxes on anyone, including the affluent, a category that he says includes many "job creators" such as small business owners.
Romney will return this week to his familiar theme that Obama has failed to deliver on his promises to fix the economy, illustrated by the latest federal jobs reports that showed the unemployment rate unchanged at 8.2 percent.
Each side is attacking more than ever, and that won't change right up through Election Day. Negative politics is, after all, another form of message discipline for both campaigns.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog,"Ken Walsh's Washington," and is the author of "The Presidency" column in the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.