Fresh signs of a housing rebound in the US and growing support in public opinion polls boosted President Barack Obama's bid for a new term in the White House as Republican rival Mitt Romney struggled to quell a video controversy.
Mr Romney has been performing virtually non-stop political damage control ever since a video surfaced on Monday showing him telling donors last May that as a candidate for the White House, "my job is not to worry about" the millions of Americans who do not earn enough to pay income taxes.
He continued working to reframe the video controversy into a philosophical difference between himself and Mr Obama - to his own advantage.
"The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He (Obama) does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class. I can. He can't," Mr Romney told donors at an Atlanta fundraiser.
Mr Romney added that the country "does not work by a government saying, become dependent on government, become dependent upon redistribution. That will kill the American entrepreneurship that's lifted our economy over the years".
Mr Obama spent Wednesday in the White House, a rarity in a race with less than seven weeks yet to run. He invited democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma to the Oval Office, a chat between two Nobel Peace Prize winners.
In a campaign dominated all year by the sluggish economy, the government said construction of single-family homes jumped to the highest rate in more than two years.
Separately, the National Association of Realtors reported that home sales rose last month to the highest level since May 2010. Real estate has been among the slowest sectors of the economy to recover from the national downturn of 2008.
A new AP-GfK poll - taken before the Mr Romney video was revealed - put Mr Obama's overall approval rating among voting-age adults at 56%. That was above 50% for the first time since May, and at its highest level since the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden more than a year ago.
Among likely voters, however, the race was a statistical tie, with Mr Obama at 47% and Mr Romney at 46%.