12:45 p.m. ET: Politics is all about combat, and four competitions are dominating today's news:
1) Free vs. Paid Media. So far, John McCain has gotten a remarkable amount of mileage out of the William Ayers story without spending a dime on it. The latest example: This morning's new Web video, which the press has eagerly debated and analyzed. This free coverage has been useful for McCain, who doesn't have the cash to match Barack Obama on the airwaves. Reportedly, the McCain camp will be out with an actual paid ad on the subject soon. But will it have real cash behind it, or will it just air a couple of times on Fox and then prompt all the networks to run it on their newscasts -- for free?
2) Vote Fraud vs. Vote Suppression. Every cycle, Republicans accuse Democrats of registering fake or illegal voters, and Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to scare or block people from voting. With record registration numbers in so many states, this dynamic is amplified this cycle. The GOP has been stepping up its attacks on ACORN -- especially after the group's Nevada office was raided -- while Democrats have been highlighting cases where voters have been improperly removed from the rolls. How messy will Election Day get? How many lawyers will be on call for both campaigns?
3) National vs. State Polls. As discussed in this morning's post below, Democrats are fantasizing about a massive electoral college victory on Election Day. And current projections, based on polling in a host of swing states, gives them a reason to cheer. But there remains one stubborn fact that could prevent a landslide -- nationally, the race is still close. RCP's average has Obama at 49.1 percent, and McCain at 43.5. Is that a real lead? Yes. An insurmountable one? No.
4) Hope vs. Reality. Read today's front pages. On one hand, you've got McCain's pricey proposal ($700 billion? $800 billion) to buy bad mortgages and Obama's plan for health care reform. On the other hand, you've got the global economy going into the tank, a recession coming, retailers worried about holiday shopping, and much more. What will tax revenues look like next year? Is there any chance that either candidate could really do even half of what they've promised on the policy front in 2009? What programs would they cut? Both McCain and Obama have avoided that question in the debates. But one of them will have to answer it, one way or another, next year.
8 a.m. ET: If the press keeps writing that Barack Obama is going to win next month, does that make it so?
This morning's clips are brimming with Democratic confidence. Some in the party even see "a landslide in the making," predicated on the idea that Obama could take Virginia, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina out of the red column. Obama's got the issue set he wants, the money, the turnout operation, he's taller, and so on.
Except ... there are still 27 days left, Obama's only up around 5 points nationwide despite all those advantages, the GOP ground game may be catching up a bit, Karl Rove says there are still lots of undecided voters and McCain continues to run well ahead of the Republican party generally.
The McCain shop keeps working to plant those seeds of doubt about Obama's background and preparedness for the top job, releasing a new video on Bill Ayers. The Republican's campaign is also working to build some buzz behind the mortgage rescue plan he announced during Tuesday's debate.
McCain is in Wisconsin today, where Obama's current polling lead is in the high single digits. Obama will spend the day in Ohio, where the contest is tighter and where the Sierra Club is helping out by bashing McCain in a new ad.
On the spousal front, Michelle Obama told Larry King last night that she wasn't offended by McCain's now-famous "that one" comment during Tuesday's debate (glad we cleared that up). And Cindy McCain continues her attack-dog role, accusing Obama Wednesday of cutting off money for the military. How about a prospective First Ladies' debate? There's still time to make it happen.
October 9, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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