The presidential race couldn't be much closer, with 15 percent of the electorate undecided and conflicted, and with many of these voters "going back and forth every day" between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin.
In the end, the outcome will come down to the summations that each candidate makes in the two weeks leading up to Election Day, according to Garin, one of the nation's most respected opinion researchers and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in 2008.
Undecided voters are having a difficult time trying to "figure out what they should be weighing more," Garin says. He adds: "People want a signal that things will be better in the next four years than the last four," and they are assessing, most of all, whether it is Obama or Romney who can deliver the goods.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has the race tied at 47 percent.
Garin says the third and final debate Monday night, on foreign policy, could make a difference, but more important will be the candidates' speeches and statements on the economy and their paid TV advertising over the next two weeks.
Regarding the foreign-policy debate, Garin said, "This is still very much an election about the economy, more than foreign policy. The more each candidate can bring it home to people's economic lives, the better."
Garin says the outcome will probably depend on who wins a handful of battleground states including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
And it's unclear if Romney can match Obama in the "ground game" of identifying supporters and getting them to the polls, the pollster says.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter.