Clint Eastwood is back on the campaign trail, drumming up support for Mitt Romney and belittling President Barack Obama – but this time from within the safe confines of scripted, pre-recorded remarks.

The Hollywood icon caused widespread consternation – within the Romney campaign, as well as in the country – with his rambling diatribe against Mr Obama during the Republican national convention.

Then, he spent the better part of 15 minutes having a bizarre conversation laced with suggested profanities with an empty stool, on which the president was supposed to have been sitting. This ate up scarce minutes of prime-time broadcast, and raised questions about how the detail-focused Romney campaign could have let Mr Eastwood out on the stage without vetting his remarks.

But now, the veteran actor is back playing a new part, this time starring in a new ad from American Crossroads, the outside group run by Karl Rove, the former Bush adviser, which supports Mr Romney’s candidacy for president.

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This is the time on the political calendar when pundits, strategists and soothsayers pore over charts and crunch numbers to discern how the smallest demographic slivers of the US electorate are feeling as the presidential election approaches.

White working-class men on the Ohio/Pennsylvania border? Check. African-Americans in midwestern urban centres? Check. Hispanic Republican lesbians? Well, not quite.

But amid the plethora of graphs and tables that tell us what the electorate is thinking, Amazon has come up with a new measure – the Amazon Election Heat Map 2012, which measures what Americans are reading. Read more

Mitt Romney (R) and his wife Ann Romney on August 12. (Photo Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney (R) and his wife Ann Romney on August 12. (Photo Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney has a woman problem. Not with his wife, the telegenic Ann, who has a gift for making the man accused of being an automaton seem real, but with the millions of women voters who will comprise the majority of the electorate this November.

In a tight contest like this one, every vote counts and Republicans can’t afford to give President Barack Obama any more of an advantage with women than he already enjoys.

While Romney, who will be crowned as the Republican nominee for president next week, has adopted some hardline positions on women’s health issues such as access to contraception and abortion during his latest political incarnation, they pale next to the policies being espoused by his new running mate, Paul Ryan, and his latest headache, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin.

Amid the controversy surrounding Akin, who has apologised for claiming that “legitimate rape” does not lead to pregnancy but is thus far refusing to pull out of the must-win Missouri race, new light is being shone on Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin best known for his hawkishness on the deficit. Read more