The president has more get-out-the-vote offices than Romney in every competitive state; some offices never closed after the 2008 campaign. Democrats say that network helped them register more than 130,000 new voters — most in battleground states — in the week before the debate. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in nearly every competitive state with party registration, including Florida and Nevada.
Romney's team is working hard to chip away at that margin.
Democrats have an edge in Iowa, where 62 percent of the 111,000 voters who have cast absentee ballots so far were registered Democrats. Twenty-percent were Republicans and 18 percent were unaffiliated, according to the Iowa secretary of state's office.
In Ohio, a perennial battleground state, Democrats have an edge over Republicans among people who have requested absentee ballots, though relatively few completed ballots have been submitted. Among the 691,000 people who have requested absentee ballots in 49 of the state's 88 counties, 30 percent are Democrats and 24 percent are Republicans. Forty-six percent are unaffiliated voters, according to data collected by the AP.
But Romney's early voting efforts are showing signs of paying off in North Carolina and Florida, two competitive states that the Republican nominee can ill afford to lose.
Despite a strong debate performance, Romney's path to the presidency remains narrower than Obama.
Particularly worrisome for Republicans is Ohio, a state that every Republican presidential candidate has needed to win the White House.
If Obama wins Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need to win Florida and in all likelihood secure several up-for-grabs states such as Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada to take the White House.
Romney, following his selection of Wisconsin Rep. Ryan as his running mate, has tried to put Wisconsin into the toss-up category, but public polling has shown Obama ahead, giving the president more breathing room.
In the season of debates, next up is the only match-up between Vice President Joe Biden and Ryan.
A strong performance by Biden, a former senator who essentially made a career out of debating colleagues, could quell nervousness among some Democrats, though neither party expects undecided voters to be swayed by the face-off between the running mates. Ryan's challenge is to overcome his lack foreign policy expertise or national debate experience against Biden, who has extensive experience on both fronts.
"Believe you me, I understand this man is extremely experienced, he's a gifted speaker, he's a proven debater," Ryan said on "The Frank Beckmann Show" on Detroit radio station WJR. "So we definitely have our work cut out for us. But the problem the vice president has that he just can't get around is he has to try and defend Barack Obama's record, and it's not a very good record to defend."
Biden was preparing for the face-off in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., where he has held two mock debates with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who is playing the role of Ryan.
Obama and Romney will face off again on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y. in a town hall debate.
Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher, Steve Peoples, Ben Feller, Ken Thomas, Nedra Pickler and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.
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