Three subplots to follow as Americans experience what promises to be one of the closest, ugliest presidential campaigns ever.

Polls

They’re all over the place, as timing, sample size, and turnout models vary. Keep your eyes on Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The last three of these are light blue states that were trending Democratic until the Tea Party shone large in the mid-term elections. Of these, Pennsylvania may prove to be the most interesting. The Commonwealth is by far the most competitive of the larger northern states. And then there is all-important Ohio - a must win state for any GOP presidential candidate.

Women

Democrats are hoping the significant gender advantage enjoyed by the president is a product of the hangover from Rick Santorum’s controversial birth control comments. Republicans are hoping it is a temporary blip from a drawn out, divisive GOP primary season. Less analyzed but equally interesting is the Democrats’ gender gap with the male vote, typically a major element in big GOP years.

Economy

It will be an aggressive war of numbers, and last week’s unemployment statistics offer a case-in-point. The Democrats celebrate a drop in the official unemployment rate from 8.3 to 8.1%, while the GOP points to unimpressive job creation (125,000). Further, the GOP will point out that less people looking for work is the real reason behind the drop in unemployment numbers.