Heading into next week's GOP convention, Republicans are finding themselves confronting controversies over Medicare and abortion - far from the issues they've been trying to highlight for months: jobs and the slack economy.
But Republican challenger Mitt Romney and ticket mate Rep. Paul Ryan have been unable to hold the focus where they want, try as they might.
Abortion leaped into prominence when Rep. Todd Akin refused to withdraw his candidacy for a Missouri Senate seat over his comments about rape and pregnancy - defying calls to step aside from Romney, Ryan and other party leaders.
"It makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process," Akin told ABC Wednesday.
The flap drew attention to the GOP ticket's own strong stance against abortion.
The Republican platform committee Tuesday reiterated support for a plank unconditionally opposing abortion, although Romney's campaign suggests he wouldn't oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Medicare, generally a strong issue for Democrats, has gained new prominence because of Ryan's efforts as House Budget Committee chairman to overhaul it.
Romney's broad backing of Ryan's latest budget plan has handed more ammunition to Democrats. But Romney and Ryan argue Obama's Medicare reductions - not their proposals - are endangering the government health-care program for seniors.
A new AP-GfK poll shows Obama with a clear edge over Romney on social issues such as abortion, 52 percent to 35 percent; and a 48 percent to 42 percent lead on handling Medicare.
It also shows Romney holding a slight edge on economic and budget issues. And overall, the poll shows an extremely tight race.
Romney was campaigning Wednesday in Iowa, Ryan in Virginia and North Carolina. Obama was in Nevada, hard hit by the economic slowdown.