By Richard Downes, Washington Correspondent

We were almost writing off Mitt Romney’s chances of taking the Presidency only a couple of weeks ago. His campaign was plagued with errors and was running out of steam rapidly. Then came the October surprise. Romney took to the stage in Denver and demolished a lacklustre Barack Obama.

The President looked distracted and failed to perform. Another factor was the way American television covered the contest. They adopted a split-screen format, which showed the two candidates on screen at all times. Mostly what you saw was Barack Obama fidgeting and taking notes and occasionally wincing, as Romney riffed through his well-prepared routine and when the President spoke, he was hesitant and halting.

What a turnaround! Since then, the opinion polls have shown that, at least in this race, the television debates matter. Obama’s poor showing and Romney’s strong appearance have turned this into a knife-edged affair.

According to most polls, the candidates are either exactly even or Romney has a slight advantage. In swing states, the story is subtly different. Florida is leaning towards Romney, but Ohio is still providing good news for Obama. Romney’s team knows that no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, so there’s no surprise that Romney and his junior, Paul Ryan, are hitting the hustings in Ohio at ever opportunity. You can’t take your eyes off it!