Between the Lines: By Mark Halperin

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President Barack Obama's lead has widened slightly after the conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, rattling Republicans...Beyond the poll numbers, the causes of near panic are many...Mitt Romney's team failed to produce a tight, winning convention (symbolized by the Clint Eastwood spectacle and the absence of any star speaker who wowed like Bill Clinton)...Romney's glaring omission of the U.S. troops serving abroad in his Tampa acceptance speech added to GOP worries about Obama's national-security edge with voters...A series of small errors and confusing statements from Veep hopeful Paul Ryan has heightened concerns about his readiness for his upcoming debate with Joe Biden...Republicans recognize they may have to carve a path back to the White House without the electoral votes of Ohio, Michigan or Pennsylvania--the political equivalent of drawing an inside straight...Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and a bevy of Fox Newsies ringing the alarm have suggested that the doubts they expressed last year about Romney's ability to defeat Obama are coming true...Boston is bristling at the avalanche of suggestions from the peanut gallery about tactics, strategy and performance...Romney's aides acknowledge they are going through a tough stretch but believe their renewed television ad campaign, the upcoming debates and a still tepid economy will soon restore the race to a virtual tie...Meanwhile, senior Democrats say the President is overdue for a bad news cycle or two himself, and if Romney can take advantage of it, the challenger will be right back in the game and these early-September GOP worries will transform from a decisive moment into one more ephemeral wrinkle.

WORD OF THE WEEK

whipflop

n. A flip-flop so quick, it gives you whiplash

See: Hours after Mitt Romney said on Meet the Press that there were parts of Obamacare he liked, including coverage for pre-existing conditions, a Romney aide explained that he was not advocating a federal insurance mandate. Bay Area Council's senior policy adviser Micah Weinberg coined the phrase on Twitter

YES!

NO!

HANTAVIRUS

8

Visitors who have contracted the deadly, rodent-borne virus at Yosemite National Park this year as of Sept. 6. Three have died. Park officials have closed some campsites

For Bachmann, Trouble at Home

MINNESOTA

She's fresh off a presidential run and the reigning queen of Congress's Tea Party caucus, but Representative Michele Bachmann is no lock for re-election. The well-funded firebrand is nearly tied with novice Democratic challenger Jim Graves in Minnesota's newly redrawn 6th District; a recent Democratic poll found Graves winning independents by 15 points. Upshot: for the first time in three terms, Bachmann's seat isn't safe.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

48% BACHMANN

46% GRAVES