But with the candidates running in a near dead heat, and delegates for Texas Rep. Ron Paul parading around the convention floor with clothespins on their noses, the pressure was on Romney to close the deal before the Democrats claimed the spotlight.
The GOP convention's theme was built largely around an Obama quote ("You didn't build that") that the president and many others say was taken out of context. Those three days in Tampa were all about attacking Obama's performance — on jobs, on foreign policy, on spending — and putting him in the position of having to defend that record.
The old saw is that the best defense is a good offense. Before the Republicans had even brought the gavel down on their convention, prominent Democrats were calling for a counteroffensive.
On Thursday morning, Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 nominee, issued a fundraising appeal. The decorated Vietnam veteran reminded the faithful about the devastating ads from outside groups that questioned his military record.
"I have one message burned into my memory for everyone who cares about the outcome of this year's presidential election," he wrote. "Respond quickly and powerfully to attacks from the other side."
In the courtroom, the prosecution gets the first and last word because it is the party with the burden of proof. But here, it's unclear which side bears the real burden, says defense attorney Barry Scheck, co-founder of The Innocence Project but perhaps more famous for helping win an acquittal for O.J. Simpson in his murder trial.
"Is it the incumbent or the challenger?" he asks. Given the current wind conditions, he says, "I think the president's probably better served having the last word."
In the end, Romney v. Obama is being tried in the court of public opinion. And until Nov. 6, neither side will be resting.
Follow AP National Writer Allen G. Breed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AllenGBreed
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