A modest rise in popularity for US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney from the recent Republican Party convention looks to be shortlived, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Democratic President Barack Obama regained a narrow lead on Saturday by 44 per cent to 43 per cent over his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Romney.
The Reuters/Ipsos rolling poll measures national sentiment during the two-week convention season by polling over the previous four days.
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Romney was ahead by one point in Friday's online poll and by two points in Thursday's survey as his campaign came under a blaze of media attention at the convention in Tampa, Florida.
In his acceptance speech on Thursday, Romney urged voters to get behind him and help rebuild the economy. His address followed three days of speeches by Republicans, including testimonies from Romney's relatives and friends aimed at improving the image of a candidate who is often seen as stiff or aloof.
"This wasn't a lightning bolt convention," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. "Comparatively speaking, this was a more muted convention in general ... So it doesn't surprise me that [the bump in polls] wasn't a great deal bigger."
Post-convention poll bounces are common but fleeting in recent years, and Obama could see one himself next week after he formally accepts his party's nomination for a second term at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But with the candidates treading water in a dead heat race, Clark said she expected polls to remain extremely close all the way to the November 6 vote.
'A new coach'
Romney's muted benefit from the convention may be in part because of his decision to unveil his vice-presidential choice, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, weeks before the convention.
The convention was also overshadowed by Hurricane Isaac, which caused the cancellation of Monday's events, as well as a bizarre performance right before Romney's speech of Hollywood star Clint Eastwood, who addressed an imaginary Obama in an empty chair.
On Friday, the poll found Romney improving his standing with voters on various favourable characteristics, such as being "a good person" or "tough enough for the job".
As millions of Americans welcomed the return of college football on Saturday, Romney tried to make the most of the opportunity.
Both Romney and his running mate appeared in the critical swing state and football haven of Ohio on Saturday,
with Ryan attending a game at his alma mater and Romney blasting Obama by telling a crowd of 3,000 supporters that America needs a new coach.
"If you have a coach that's zero and 23 million, you say it's time to get a new coach," Romney told a rally in
Cincinnati, referring to the number of Americans the Romney campaign says are unemployed and underemployed. "It's time for America to see a winning season again, and we're going to bring it to them."
While Obama and his supporters rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, next week, Romney will be off the campaign trail to prepare for the televised debates this autumn against the Democratic incumbent.
Senior Romney campaign adviser Kevin Madden said Romney planned to spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on debate preparation at the home of Kerry Healey in Reading, Vermont.
Healey was the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts while Romney was governor of the state.
Madden could not confirm whether Romney would campaign at all during the week of the Democratic National Convention, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday in Charlotte, but he downplayed the move and insisted it was not a reversal of previous plans.
Senior Republican strategists, including Madden, said last month that Romney would have a full campaign schedule, including in battleground states, during the week of the Democratic convention.
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio will stand in for Obama during Romney's debate preparation, while Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, will play Romney during Obama's pre-debate sessions.
The incumbent candidate tried to bolster his re-election campaign on Saturday with a fierce critique of the Republicans' convention and a plea to supporters to cast their ballots as early as possible.
Speaking to a crowd of 10,000 in the battleground state of Iowa, Obama said rival Romney and his fellow Republicans had offered no new ideas when they held the national spotlight for three days during their convention in Tampa.
|President Obama waves back to onlookers as he departs South Lawn for series of campaign events [GALLO/GETTY]
"What they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better-suited for the last century," Obama said. "We might as well have watched it on a black-and-white TV."
Obama criticised Romney for failing to mention the war in Afghanistan or his plans for veterans care in his speech, and said he had failed to outline a credible plan to boost the economy.
"There was a lot of talk about hard truths and bold choices ... but no one ever actually bothered to tell you what they were," Obama said.
Obama is gearing up for his own star turn next Thursday at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he will lay out his argument for re-election in a football stadium that can hold almost 75,000 people.
The speech is likely to offer few surprises, as Obama has been arguing since June that the election is a choice whether to continue the policies he enacted in his first term.
These include keeping his health reforms in place and bolstering education spending, rather than returning to policies enacted under former Republican President George W Bush that Obama says hollowed out the middle class in order to cut taxes for the wealthy.