By TOM RAUM, Associated Press
These are the dog days of the presidential race, so to speak.
The candidates are virtually decided, the political conventions still way off and the issues are scattered and sometimes trivial.
Tuesday's Republican primaries in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island don't loom as large as they once did when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was still challenging Mitt Romney, now the presumed GOP nominee with Santorum's withdrawal.
Polls show the economy and jobs clearly concern voters the most.
And President Barack Obama and Romney each constantly argue that he would be the better steward of the economy rather than the other.
But right now, economic growth and job creation have slowed to a crawl with no clear consensus on whether things will improve or worsen before Election Day.
Republican consultant Tony Fratto was prompted to tweet: "This part of pres campaigns is the dumdrums — like doldrums, only we're trapped in a windless sea of dumb issues."
A prime example is the debate over whether it's worse to transport a dog in a crate on top of your car, as Romney did on a family vacation; or eat dog-meat as food, as Obama wrote he did as a young boy in Indonesia.
Republicans are finding some traction over the General Services Administration's lavish taxpayer-financed 2010 conference near Las Vegas. But the more serious Secret Service scandal involving alleged prostitutes in Colombia is being handled gingerly by both parties.
"Sure, it creates a problem for President Obama. It adds to the sense that Washington is broken. But if the Republicans try to make this a point in their arguments, they are making a big mistake," says GOP strategist Karl Rove.
After all, agents equally risk their lives to protect presidents and would-be presidents from both parties.
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EDITOR'S NOTE _ With 197 days left until Election Day, here are insisghts into today's highlights in U.S. politics
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