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Race may be down to a handful of unknowns

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Flush with cash, Mitt Romney plans to open a new front in the White House race by challenging President Barack Obama in upper Midwest states where he might not have dug in otherwise.

Obama is intensifying efforts to cast his Republican rival as out of touch, which he's already been working pretty hard at doing.

Sure, this is the beginning of the homestretch to Election Day, when everything in the two campaigns goes into overdrive and a September or October surprise could upend it all.

But this all has the whiff of politicking around the margins, too — a tweak in state-by-state strategy here, a rhetorical detour there. The fact is that both candidates believe the campaign's direction is mostly settled and will be decided by a handful of unknowns.