At Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago, the election is being framed as one of choices between Romney and Obama on economic themes.
"The fact that Romney hasn't gotten traction is not a reflection that there is stasis on economic issues," said Obama senior political adviser David Axelrod. "It's a reflection of the fact he hasn't offered a plausible alternative. I think that's why he's running into problems."
Still, Axelrod said: "There's no doubt that people will consider other things, and if it's a close call for them I think some of these other things matter."
Axelrod cited education as an important factor, particularly with women, and he contrasted Obama's desire to finance education programs with Romney's wish to cut taxes for millionaires. "For these folks, it's part of the economic discussion, not separate from it," Axelrod said.
Axelrod also mentioned Romney's position on immigration and his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood as issues that are important to certain groups of voters. "How Romney has handled himself on those issues is meaningful," he said.
"People have broad concerns, and some of these issues will be influential," he added. "Other issues may move some who are on the bubble, but rebuilding the economy and the middle class is the overwhelmingly the top concern."
No side issue stands out more than immigration in its ability to energize and mobilize a bloc of voters. Obama had promised a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system when he ran in 2008. But Obama put the issue on the back burner after support for immigration changes failed to gel, and Hispanic voters grew resentful.
But last month he acted on his own, expanding the authority of the federal government to exempt certain immigrants from deportation and making them eligible for work permits. The stance contrasted sharply with Romney's. During the Republican primaries, he took a hard line against illegal immigration.
One ad this past week aired in Nevada by the Service Employees International Union and the pro-Obama Priorities Action political action committee states that Romney "has not demonstrated that he respects the Latino community."
Romney is running Spanish language ads himself and Madden says the challenge for Obama is that until he issued an administrative directive five months before the election Obama had not acted on his promise to Hispanics.
But Schmidt says Republicans are in a bad position with Hispanics these days.
"Nevada and New Mexico are going to be very, very important states," he said. "The numbers aren't where you want them to be if you're a Republican wanting Mitt Romney to win."
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