GOP jockeys for spotlight as Dem convention starts, battleground races tighten

If the polls hold, the 2012 presidential election could be historically close.

And so, as the Democratic National Convention gets under way this week in Charlotte, N.C., Republicans are planning to hold their own events each day on the sidelines -- to make sure their message doesn't get drowned out by the pro-Obama rally inside the Time Warner Cable Arena.

The sustained campaign mode, even continuing during the rival party's convention week, reflects how tight the race is. Democrats tried to do the same thing during the GOP convention last week in Tampa.

"It's going to be a close race," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod acknowledged on "Fox News Sunday," while claiming a slight lead in the battlegrounds. "But I'd much sooner be us than them."

The host state of North Carolina itself is turning into an airtight battleground. The RealClearPolitics, or RCP, average of polls puts Mitt Romney up by less than 1 percentage point in the state.

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    And the four states President Obama is visiting on his "Road to Charlotte" tour are just about as competitive.

    The RCP average shows Obama leading Romney by less than 1 percentage point in Iowa, where the president visited Saturday. It shows Obama leading by close to 2 points in Colorado, where the president is visiting Sunday.

    Obama's up by just over 1 point in Ohio, where Romney visited Saturday and Obama will visit Monday. And the president is up by less than 1 point in Virginia, where he's planning to visit on Tuesday.

    These are among the dozen or so battleground states where the race is expected to be decided.

    So it's no surprise that as the Democrats' convention begins, GOP running mate Paul Ryan will travel to nearby Greenville, N.C., on Monday.

    "We will be talking about the number one issue for North Carolinians -- jobs," said Ryan spokesman Michael Steel.

    Ryan is attempting the kind of counter-messaging that Vice President Biden had planned at the start of the Republican National Convention. Biden was planning to head to Tampa and then two other Florida cities but had to cancel those plans because of Hurricane Isaac. Other Democrats still showed up to push the president's message.

    National polling shows the race just as knotted up as in the battlegrounds, with the Gallup daily tracking poll showing Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 46 percent, in its latest update. Rasmussen tracking poll results released Sunday show Romney ahead, leading 48 percent to 44 percent, perhaps reflecting a modest bump from the GOP convention.

    Among the GOP notables expected to help drive the Republican message this coming week on the Charlotte sidelines are South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who spoke at the GOP convention.