The Academy Awards of US politics, the Democratic and Republican conventions, are over for another four years.
Both parties have crowned their respective presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls.
TV prime-time speeches were delivered to thousands of the party faithful in an attempt to define the crucial last month of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The real messages of both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are targeted like a laser beam at the growing independent centre of the US electorate.
The Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan campaigns will now criss-cross the US focusing intense energy and resources on 11 key swing states, including Florida, Michigan and Ohio.
Preparations for the important three scheduled presidential debates beginning on October 13 are now also underway.
US poll averages appear to show the President is leading his opponent, but it is wafer thin.
Perhaps this may become the closest contest since John F Kennedy won the popular vote in 1960 by just 112,827 votes.
In their convention speeches both Obama and Romney delivered one key line that summed up their respective campaign attempts to meet the three main objectives of presidential politics: electrify the party base, inspire independent voters and persuade rich people to hand over money.
The President said: “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth”.
Romney’s powerful killer line was simple. “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise ... is to help you and your family.”
Anxiety over the economy and the direction of the US are the central issues and will determine whether the President becomes the third Democrat in history to be elected to a second term, or if he joins 12 of his predecessors who served just one.
US unemployment is beginning to trend down. In August it fell to 8.1per cent. Inflation remains very low at just 1.4 per cent in July. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the budget deficit is also declining. The US national debt clock, however, continues to tick over hitting $16 trillion.
Regardless of who is sworn-in as president next January, US policymakers are sleepwalking toward a ‘fiscal cliff’.
Unless the president-elect and Congress deal with the budget deficit and raise the US debt ceiling, automatic across-the-board income tax hikes and huge spending cuts will be immediately triggered in defence, welfare, health and education.
The consequences will make the debt preoccupation of Europe look like a vicarage tea party.
In light of these challenges, the best convention speech rests with former President Bill Clinton, who told Democrats: “Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one word answer: Arithmetic.”
Democrats and Republicans alike must enter into a ‘grand bargain’ to resolve US deficit and debt problems. Policymakers can only do this by showing leadership and a willingness to compromise based on shared values, and, simple arithmetic.
As the ‘fiscal cliff’ approaches, the debt clock ticks on. The US economy is just too big to fail.
Gino Mandarino is a long-standing US political observer. He returned from a US visit in April.