For the past 12 days the political world has been marveling at the enormous impact - however tenuous it might turn out to be - that first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has had on this race.
On the Monday prior to the debate Obama's lead in the Real Clear Politics summary of national polls was four percentage points. As of last night Romney was leading by 1.3 percentage points - a turnaround of 5.3 points.
Remember that two days after that debate the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment statistics including a drop of three-tenths of a percentage point in the unemployment rate from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent.
Many of the resident geniuses in Washington, DC - me included - wondered aloud as to how that might put the breaks on any momentum that Romney might have generated from the debate. Forget about whether or not you believe the employment picture improved that dramatically or not. That report appears to have had little, if any effect on this race.
Maybe the September unemployment report didn't help Barack Obama because 7.8 percent is still a very high unemployment rate and Obama doesn't appear to be able (or want) to do much about it. On the day of that report, CNN's Tom Foremen wrote an analysis pointing that that since Obama took office the economy has, according to the BLS, created "4.4 million jobs by the bureau's latest count."
That's the good news. But it's not the whole truth because, as Foreman noted,
"The nation shed 4.3 million jobs during the early days of his term, and that the net gain since he took the oath of office in January 2009 is just 125,000 jobs."
The piece goes on to say,
"Obama's assertion that he created 5 million jobs does not tell the whole story and is therefore false."
Or, to use deputy Obama campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter's favorite construct: Obama lied. The polling news is not much better at the more important state level. According to the Real Clear Politics averages all of the major states have closed. For example:
-- In Florida the polling has gone from plus 2 for Obama to plus 3 for Romney
-- In Ohio Obama's pre-debate lead was 5.5 percent. As of last night that had shrunk to 1.7 percent - effectively tied.
-- Michigan has gone from + 10.0 for Obama to + 4.4 percent last night.
-- Virginia looked like it might be slipping away from Romney having any realistic chance when Obama built an RCP average lead of 3.5 percent but now it is down to + 0.4 for Obama.
The Vice Presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe "Belly Laugh" Biden didn't add to Obama's polling woes, but neither it appear to have reversed the trend.
In addition to the lumbering economy, Obama is facing growing problems with the - literally - He-Said-She-Said between his White House and Hillary Clinton's State Department over who knew what and when did they know it regarding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The State Department had originally claimed that the attack was an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration of outrage at that mysterious film about the prophet Mohammed.
Then, in the hours before a House hearing into the attacks, the Department the Washington Post reported that
"New details also appeared to confirm that there was no protest or other benign gathering outside the compound gates, as initially described by some in the administration."
During the VP debate, "Chucklin' Joe" Biden blamed the White House's initial response on bogus information from "intelligence agencies."
Remember how understanding Democrats were when the "intelligence agencies" blew the call on WMDs in Iraq? They didn't blame the CIA. They blamed George W. Bush.
Early voting has begun in many states. I will vote today in Virginia. This early voting is beginning at a time when the Obama campaign is, if not staggering, is certainly sagging.
With three weeks to go, reversing trends becomes more difficult. The pressure is all on Obama in Tuesday night's debate.