President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney should be pressing full-steam ahead to energize their respective supporters, consolidate gains and reach out to voting blocs where polls suggest weakness.
They're trying to. Yet both have had unwanted distractions _ some partly of their own making _ in a tight race with six months to go.
Obama is coming under pressure to clarify his position on gay marriage after it was supported this week by Vice President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and campaign co-chair Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy.
Obama opposed same-sex marriage while supporting civil unions during his 2008 campaign, but has since said his views are "evolving." That ambivalence is sowing clashes within his party.
Romney, meanwhile, had to defend his decision to hire an openly gay foreign-policy adviser who recently quit under pressure from social conservatives.
Romney's difficulty in locking down conservatives was hinted at with the middle-of-the-night formal endorsement by former rival Rick Santorum. He wrote to supporters that he still had differences with Romney despite "significant areas in which we agree."
Romney may have reignited the debate over auto bailouts by telling a Cleveland television station that he deserves "a lot of credit" for recent U.S. auto-company successes _ even though he argued in 2008 that Detroit should go through bankruptcy without bailout funds.
The issue is touchy in Ohio and Michigan, swing states where the bailouts are generally popular. Obama's campaign called it "a new low in dishonesty."
And then there's the unflagging Ron Paul, whose continuing accumulation of delegates is delaying the day when Romney can officially claim the GOP nomination.
Obama, meanwhile, has had to deal with a flap over U.S. handling of a Chinese human-rights activist and scandals at the General Services Administration and Secret Service.
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