This is the weekend of closing arguments in the campaign for the U.S. presidency.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are shuttling madly between Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia -- and especially Ohio -- to give the exact same speech at each whistle stop. The candidates are looking more and more robotic with their well-practiced pacing and redundant sound bites.
How many times can we cry over Romney's telling the fate of a woman who was forced by Obamanomics over the last four years -- and now Obamacare -- to shut down her family business. If you hadn't heard the story three or four times already, you might think Romney was recalling it sincerely for the first time, so smooth is his inflection. At each rally, he repeats the precise phrase about how she "teared up" when she talked to him.
This is but one of many examples. Is that really Romney at the podium or just a hologram?
At least in Englewood, Colo., on Saturday night, Romney threw in a new patriotic story about a flag that some Boy Scouts had sent up in the "space Challenger shuttle" back in 1986.
How is this relevant to Romney's campaign? Easy. The flag survived the Challenger disaster and is now in the possession of the former Scoutmaster, who happens to live in Monument, Colo. -- which Romney was careful to point out that he "drove through" to get here. It's all a pretty big stretch.
"That is a great flag, representing the greatest nation in the history of the Earth," Romney effused when Maj. William Tolbert, the former Scoutmaster, was invited onto the stage to show the artifact encased in a box of glass and wood.
Romney himself had a personal experience with that flag. It was posted near him when he attended a Boy Scout court of honor. When the tale of the flag was told there, Romney draped it out for the audience to see. "It was as if electricity was running through my arm," he told an appreciative crowd Saturday night, "because I thought about all the men and women in our space program who put themselves in danger's path out of a desire for learning and knowledge for us. It's the American way. Think of all of our servicemen and women who put themselves in harm's way for freedom for us."
Romney might expect liberal cynics to draw some parallels to uber-liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, who claimed to have experienced a "thrill going up my leg" when Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
At least Romney's expression was a wholesome sentiment about American exceptionalism, contrived as it was.
But it's Obama that has the higher hill to climb. His credibility is in tatters. His now familiar refrain -- "The war in Iraq is over; the war in Afghanistan is winding down; al-Qaida is on the run; and Osama bin Laden is dead" -- is not only wearing thin, it's clearly a deliberate, almost cynical, spin.
Obama should be saying that al-Qaida is stronger than when he took office, and a U.S. ambassador and three heroes are dead.
Details about the incompetence and lack of courage exhibited in Obama's non-response to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, has been leaking out, one damning revelation at a time, despite a concerted effort by the administration and shabby mainstream media to keep it out of sight until after Election Day.
Romney has left this story for his surrogates to tell, and they're doing the job. The main outlines of the story have been framed for the world to see. It has infuriated members of the military. They understand that a sacred compact was violated in Benghazi. When heroes do their job, they get reinforcements. Nobody is left behind.
Nearly half of all Americans believe that Obama has misled them on Benghazi -- 44 percent according to a recent poll.
Ironically, last week, Obama developed a new mantra, promising that in hurricane-ravaged New Jersey and New York "nobody will be left behind."
Apparently it's only OK to leave Americans behind in foreign countries.
But people are being left behind on the Eastern Seaboard as well. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is about as uneven and spotty in response to superstorm Sandy as it was to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast in 2005. The suffering is intense and ongoing. But this time there's no Bush. This time, blame Hope and Change.
We wouldn't blame voters for experiencing campaign fatigue after nearly two years of political posturing for this coming Tuesday. (In Britain, by comparison, the whole political shebang takes only two months, start to finish.) We wouldn't blame voters for being annoyed with redundant speeches and last-ditch grabs for votes through emotional appeals like Boy Scout flags on a space shuttle 26 years ago.
But we will be disappointed if they fail to identify Barack Obama's many derelictions of duty -- including his economic malfeasance -- and if they then fail to register their displeasure at the polls. At the end of the day, it's not about patriotic words and sound bites. It's about action.