1:45 p.m. ET: So, did you watch the Obamamercial last night? (The Rundown admits to having been sucked in instead by a fine Law & Order rerun, but that's why there's YouTube.). According to preliminary Nielsen ratings, about 30.1 million people watched the paid special on CBS, NBC and Fox. That's a lot of eyeballs, though the campaign did spend at least $3 million to air it -- 10 cents per viewer, or 5 cents per eyeball.
The ratings were high, and the reviews have been largely glowing. How many viewers went into the night undecided, and how many actually made up their minds based on a slick 30-minute commercial? We'll have to wait a few days for the polls to reflect any post-infomercial bounce.
In the meantime, the race continues to hold steady. Today's data from all the major tracking polls put Obama's lead between 3 and 7 points. A pair of new polls in Virginia show Obama leading there by just 4 points, though it's worth noting that two surveys released yesterday had his lead at 7 and 9 points.
Over to the electoral map -- The Rundown feels increasingly like a weather guy on the local news, but with a smaller salary -- where we see that the cautious but all-knowing AP has declared that Obama "has pulled ahead in enough states to win the 270 electoral votes he needs to gain the White House — and with states to spare."
8 a.m. ET: The Rundown wrote yesterday that the only remaining "viable storyline" was whether John McCain can mount a comeback. Alas, he neglected to mention that there is one more genuinely important subplot to watch: How messy will Election Day be?
"Meltdown at the Polls 2008" is the theme of much of today's coverage, as several different seeds of potential electoral chaos are blooming or preparing to do so in advance of next Tuesday. In this pre-election period, much of the focus has been on the dueling partisan charges: Republicans say Democrats are committing widespread voter fraud and Democrats say Republicans are trying to suppress the vote.
In Ohio, these battles have already been playing out in the courts. Fights over newly registered voters are also taking place in Florida (it's always Ohio and Florida, isn't it?) as well as Georgia, Colorado and other key states. And in a potential preview, at least 16 million people have already voted, and many have had to wait in agonizingly long lines.
Then you've got the potential problems on Election Day itself. Will there be enough polling places? Will they stay open late enough? How complicated are those new voting machines? Do they work? Can they be rigged by one side? And how confusing are those ballots?
Of course, warning of "meltdowns" and "disasters" is a good way to get readers and ratings, the political equivalent of stories about shark attacks. And it's always possible that everything will go relatively smoothly next Tuesday. There will be scattered problems here or there, and plenty of long lines, but maybe nothing that rises to the level of a national crisis. Either way, don't say the media didn't warn you. In 2000, the problems in Flordia seemed to come out of nowhere, as our weird and complicated patchwork of voting rules got almost no attention before everything fell apart. The press isn't going to make that same mistake again.
October 30, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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