With their political conventions behind them, President Obama and Mitt Romney now head into the home stretch of the fall campaign absent much of a post-convention bounce, analysts said.
The primary goal for team Romney in the Tampa, Fla. gathering was to soften the somewhat stiff New Englander. Yet the Sunshine State crowd seemed far more intent on deriding Obama than pledging unabashed support to the former Massachusetts governor.
In Charlotte, N.C., Obama sought to convince Americans they are better off than four years ago. Yet, the gifted speechmaker's remarks didn't quite soar and were overshadowed by the convention's most vivid moment -- a lengthy speech by former President Bill Clinton that enthralled Democrats while reminding Americans of better days.
As a result, the state of the race less than two months before the election remains a dead heat in which a misstep by either side could determine who claims the White House.
"There was no major gaffe by either side but no major shift in public opinion, either," Aubrey Jewett, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida, said. "Most voters already know who they are going to vote for, and I don't think either convention changed their minds."
With fewer undecided voters, mobilizing the base becomes even more important for both presidential candidates.
Democrats maintained more energy throughout their convention than their Republican counterparts. But several national polls have shown Republicans are more enthusiastic about the election than Democrats.
Conventions are often judged by a couple high points or low points and some political observers said the Democrats' best moments eclipsed those offered by Republicans.
"Republicans got the mechanics right, but the poetry was missing," said Linda P. Schacht, a press official in former President Jimmy Carter's White House who now teaches political communications at Lipscomb University. "That Clinton speech could be a defining moment in the election, whereas the GOP missed an opportunity by putting Clint Eastwood when they did." Eastwood's odd, stilted conversation with a chair was widely panned by critics.
While Romney is behind Obama in a likability contest, Republican strategist Mark Corallo said the challenger accomplished the basic goal of looking presidential, allowing Americans to envision him in the Oval Office.
If so, the stage is set for a dramatic two month push to election day, with the conventions having served the function of pep rallies before the big game.
"Conventions are ephemeral," Corallo said. "When it's a tight race, it's about the last five weeks. It's about who says the wrong thing more than who says the right thing. We're now going to get down to the hard campaign."
And Obama is already losing the narrative he spent all of last week cultivating. A new jobs report painted a bleak economic portrait, undercutting Obama's central premise for reelection: that he pulled the economy back from the brink of a depression and has engineered steady gains since.
"Nobody buys what he's selling," Corallo said. "He's likable, but no one is loving this guy anymore."