The presidential election is now three months away. While the campaign may well turn on unscripted surprises, here are seven predictable pivot points to watch between now and Nov. 6:
1) A GOP Running Mate: Sometime in the next three weeks, Republican Mitt Romney will announce a vice presidential candidate. His campaign has all but promised that it will not wait for a traditional eve-of-the-convention choice.
2) Swing State Swings: Both campaigns will continue to spend an inordinate amount of time and ad money in the battleground states. Romney is planning a bus tour beginning late this week with expected stops in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. You’ll also see a lot of the campaigns in Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin.
3) The Conventions: The four-day Republican National Convention begins Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla., and culminates with Romney going from presumptive to actual Republican nominee. The three-day Democratic National Convention starts on Sept. 4 in Charlotte, N.C.
4) Debates: President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off three times: Oct. 3 in Denver; Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y.; and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. Vice President Biden and the Republican vice presidential candidate will debate once, on Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky.
5) Voter ID Decisions: Several new voter ID laws face Justice Department review or legal challenge. The outcomes will determine if new laws restricting who can vote will be in place on Nov. 6 in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas.
6) Ads: The unprecedented money in this presidential race means the already huge number of ads on TV and online will only intensify, especially for those watching broadcast television in battleground states.
7) Taxes: Even if he maintains his refusal to release tax returns from before 2010, Romney has agreed to make public his 2011 tax returns sometime before Election Day.