12:30 p.m. ET: The debate is now only hours away, which means our televisions and Internet caches are full of suggestions for "What McCain/Obama Needs to Do Tonight..."
Well, The Rundown would like to hear what YOU think they "need to do," so deposit your suggestions in the comments section below. To get the discussion started, here's our own list:
DO make eye contact with Obama, and refuse to blink first.
DON’T wander around the stage while Obama is talking
DO bring up William Ayers, but do so in a way that makes it sound like you’re not, or that Obama made you do it. Shows that you're a leader.
DO say Obama has voted for higher taxes, but only 54 times, not 94.
DO go over your allotted time, even if Schieffer gets irritated. You’re the frontrunner. You can do whatever you want.
DO sound sincere if you compliment McCain for his service.
DON’T say he’s “likable enough.”
DO thank heaven that you opted out of public financing, and McCain didn’t (but DON’T say that out loud).
8 a.m, ET: It's Debate Day once again, the 87th (approximately) and final one of this marathon presidential campaign, and John McCain faces a choice tonight.
When the two candidates meet at Hofstra University, McCain must decide whether, and how much, to attack Barack Obama. One one hand, he could finally bring up the subject of William Ayers -- or even the verboten Rev. Wright -- as a way to question Obama's judgment, and because nothing else seemed to work well in the first two debates. On the other hand, McCain's poll numbers have gone down as his ratio of negative campaigning has gone up, with the majority of voters now seeing Obama as the guy talking issues while McCain is on the attack.
The latest evidence of that dynamic is the new New York Times/CBS News poll, which gives Obama a whopping 14-point lead among likely voters and shows that respondents think McCain has been "attacking" more than "explaining" by a 2-to-1 margin. (Elsewhere on the polling front today, LAT/Bloomberg has Obama up 9, while the latest Zogby track has the Democrat up just 4.)
Many conservatives believe that McCain's only way up is to attack Obama, and do what has only been done mostly by Sarah Palin to this point. But then McCain also risks being accused -- fairly or not -- of playing the "race card" and sullying his reputation in what will likely be the last campaign of his career.
Either way, tonight's session will be focused on domestic policy, meaning that there will (likely) be no mention of Waziristan. There certainly will be lots of economic talk and a debate over the two candidates' mortgage rescue plans and the Bush administration's bank bailout.
Now, a quick update to The Rundown's favorite story: It turns out that Tim Mahoney, the freshman Democrat already battling allegations that he paid off a former mistress and staffer to keep her quiet, may have been having another affair with another woman at the same time as the first affair. Is it too late to get Mahoney into tonight's debate?
October 15, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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