More money is being spent this time to help elect a president than ever before, most of it being plowed into just a handful of states to sway a handful of voters.
If that sounds like a course toward diminishing returns, it isn't stopping either President Barack Obama or Republican rival Mitt Romney from charging ahead.
With polls showing the contest so tight, every vote matters.
Both campaigned in battleground states Thursday. Obama had events in Orlando, Fla., and Leesburg, Va. Romney, just back from a rocky overseas trip, was campaigning in Basalt, Colo. He was being joined by a group of Republican governors, some of them running-mate possibilities, including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Virginia's Bob McDonnell and New Jersey's Chris Christie.
Tens of millions of dollars are being spent in about a dozen such states — and relatively little anywhere else — by the two campaigns, party committees and supportive Super-Pacs.
Yet polls show most voters say they're not swayed by these commercials. Instead, the stream of attack ads has only boosted negative feelings toward both candidates.
Truly undecided voters are increasingly rare.
Some surveys suggest around 90 percent of voters have made up their minds in this highly polarized nation.
A New York Times/Quinnipiac University poll shows only a sliver of voters — 4 percent in swing states Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — are undecided.
Of course, it isn't just the dwindling number of undecideds being courted. It's an attempt to fire up the candidates' core supporters.
With the race so close and the stakes so high, you can never tell.
As George H.W. Bush once observed in 1988, "It's no exaggeration to say the undecideds will go one way or the other."
Or they could just stay at home.
Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum. For more AP political coverage, look for the 2012 Presidential Race in AP Mobile's Big Stories section. Also follow https://twitter.com/APCampaign and AP journalists covering the campaign: https://twitter.com/AP/ap-campaign-2012