(CBS News) The 2012 presidential campaign has had no shortage of surprise shifts, but regardless of the moment, gaffe, or intervening factor at play, there has emerged an unmistakably consistent GOP theme: This election, Republicans say, is about the economy.
Whether or not that's true - and most polls indicate that, at the very least, many voters prioritize jobs and/or the economy as their number one issue - there's little question why Republicans, and Mitt Romney's supporters, would make this argument. After all, the Republican presidential candidate has frequently outpolled President Obama on the issue.
A handful of new surveys, however, suggest that Romney's losing his edge on questions about the economy - a potentially troubling sign for a campaign that has recently been dogged by controversy.
"The entire campaign rests on him persuading voters that he has a better answer for the economy than Barack Obama," said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist and pollster. "He's got to paint a compelling vision of an economic future."
Parsing the polls
In the weeks since the Democratic National Convention, a number of polls have shown the president closing in on Romney on questions about who would better handle the economy.
A new poll from NBC News/Wall Street Journal shows that between July and September, Mr. Obama's standing among registered voters has jumped 6 points - from 37 percent to 43 percent - on the question of whether he or Romney would do better at dealing with the economy, while Romney is steady at 43 percent. Similarly, a CNN/ORC Poll conducted among likely voters between Sept. 7-9 shows Mr. Obama with a 1-point advantage over Romney on the economy, with 50 percent to Romney's 49 percent. The week before, however, the same poll showed Romney leading Mr. Obama on the question 51-45. The week before that, Romney led the president 50-46. Among registered voters questioned about the economy in the same poll, Mr. Obama climbed two points between late June and September, from 47 percent to 49 percent. Romney, meanwhile, clocked in at 48 percent in late June and again in the September poll.
A Fox News poll released September 12 shows a similar upward trend for the president: In June, 46 percent of registered voters chose Romney when asked which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, while 39 percent chose Mr. Obama. As of September, Mr. Obama was even with Romney, at 45 percent, on the question of who would do a better job of creating jobs and improving the economy.