LANCASTER (United States), Oct 13: White House challenger Mitt Romney took his campaign into the weekend with a spring in his step, as US President Barack Obama went behind closed doors to prepare for a crucial debate.

The first head-to-head debates of the race have shaken up the campaign a4rithmetic, and given Romney and vice-presidential running mate Paul Ryan momentum as they roll into the last weeks before Nov 6.

Until Obama’s lacklustre first debate last week, the Democrat looked to be on course for victory, with a narrow lead over the Republican in national polls and a lock on the key swing states that will decide the result.

But Romney triumphed in the head-to-head, and Ryan made no major errors in his debut Thursday against Vice President Joe Biden, leaving the Republicans slightly ahead nationally and making inroads in battleground districts.

An average of polls conducted by the respected website RealClearPolitics gave Romney a one point lead nationwide, and showed him winning in swing states Florida, North Carolina and Colorado — also targets for Obama.

But Obama retains narrow leads in Ohio, Virginia and Iowa, and most pundits, bookmakers and online prediction markets still expect the incumbent to win a second term with a majority of votes in the electoral college.—AFP

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