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Leading indicators? Big crowds, Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together' & even a bear hug greet surging Obama FL

There are lagging indicators and leading indicators in presidential races.

Public-opinion surveys, like Gallup's daily tracking polls, are the former. They measure support after an event. And they suggest President Obama is picking up steam nationally from the just-ended Democratic National Convention.

Some leading indicators: big crowds at Obama's rallies from Tampa to Melbourne, people singing Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" before his West Palm Beach event Sunday, or the giant bear hug the president was given earlier by Scott Van Duzer, a Republican who voted for Obama in 2008 and the owner of Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Restaurant in Fort Pierce.

Put it all together and it looks like there's an increase in enthusiasm for Obama that's visible in Florida.

However, all these positive signs for Obama are just indicators. And the Obama campaign has helped orchestrate all of this, right down to the unscheduled stop at the restaurant from Van Duzer, who said he received permission from the Secret Service to lift up the president. There's definitely some campaign showmanship going on. But that, too, is an indicator that Obama has his act together in Florida, where the campaign has thousands of volunteers and nearly 100 field offices in each of the 67 counties.

We'll see what's what when the first batch of Florida polls start to hit next week. Meantime, former president Bill Clinton will be swinging through Florida International University in Miami on Tuesday before heading to Orlando on Wednesday.

Chances are, the Florida polls -- which resemble national surveys --- will show an uptick for Obama over Republican Mitt Romney. When compared to the national polls, swing-state surveys, however, generally have shown a tighter race between Obama and Romney, with the president clinging to an inside-the-error-margin lead.

But while the national polls' toplines don't exactly reflect what's happening in Florida, they often suggest a trend. And that trend is Obama right now.

In Gallup's survey, for instance, Romney kicked off the Republican National Convention in Tampa with an essential tie vs. Obama. The Republican led 47-46 percent. After the convention, the Republican actually trailed Obama, 46-47.

Then came the Democratic National Convention and, specifically, Clinton in the middle of it on Wednesday night. The convention in Charlotte had more energy and, on the whole, better speakers. The Democrats also didn't have an actor getting into an imaginary argument with a chair, which probably didn't help Romney.

The results: Obama now leads Romney by even more, 49-44. That's not much of a big lead; it's essentially within the 3% error-margin of the poll. But the movement of the numbers are an indicator that things are breaking for Obama. Elections are about momentum.

All told, Obama has enjoyed a 6-point shift toward him and away from Romney.

And if the those national polls and the excitement the past two days are any indication, it won't be a surprise to see his numbers tick up in Florida. But it won't be a surprise to see them fall. Another lagging indicator, an anemic job s report, is slowly sinking in. It could mean tough times and the feeling of tough times will hang around through Nov. 6.

That's bad for Obama.

So is Romney's cash advantage. Now that he's officially the Republican nominee, Romney is going to start blasting away on television -- a must in a big state like Florida. The campaigns estimate Romney has enjoyed $44 million worth of TV support this general election from his campaign and third parties, while Obama has spent about $25 million. There's a chance that disparity could grow. Team Obama says they expect to be outspent on air, but they won't be out-organized.

In between it all: the upcoming debates. The debates matter, if the Republican primary taught us anything. It's finally a chance for the candidates to face off against each other, with no TV commercials or spin-meisters acting as go-betweens. How will Obama explain his record? How will Romney explain his Medicare plan?

There's a good chance the debates will revolve around these two issues, which we heard plenty about today on the campaign trail in Florida. More on that in this story here.

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