Well, dear reader(s), excuse my absence during a little anniversary getaway weekend, spent not looking at polling news and gnawing over the dread possibility of a Romney victory as we tromped through sculpture park and wood. Not the best anniversary weekend to be married to me. I'd have been better off canvassing, as I will next weekend. But who'd have thought a few weeks ago that things would look so desperate going into this weekend?
During the working day today I have peeked by degrees into the political news, and it seems that the situation has not further deteriorated (I am choosing not to get too worked up about the Gallup/USA Today poll, with its double-wide spread between likely and registered voters and questionable "battleground subsample" status. In fact, I'm not even going to tax myself with learning what's wrong w/ battleground subsamples). I am therefore free to hold my breath until tomorrow night, which I guess means continuing this unpleasant peek-at-the news-and-brood-about-disaster routine until showtime. Which means, frankly, that I have little to contribute to anyone's understanding of anything at the moment.
For what it's worth, my brooding keeps sending flashes of the mortal combat between Hamlet Sr. and Fortinbras Sr., staged (according to a play cooked up centuries later, in which it's not staged) to dispose of lands desired by both kingdoms. Just as elections are better alternatives to succession wars, political debates are proxies for such mortal combat. And this one feels pretty mortal. Polls since 10/3 have blown through political scientists' skepticism about the effects of debates -- though some are now highlighting evidence that Obama's lead was shrinking prior to the debates, I don't think anyone is disputing the massive impact of the first round, or the stakes in the next one. I personally cannot even begin to imagine being Obama walking onto that stage.
I don't know what Romney really thinks of Obama -- I suspect he knows that Obama has been far from a disaster, and far from the radical he paints him as, and that the world will not crumble if Obama prevails. Obama, on the other hand, stands plainly to have his entire legacy razed -- and I am sure he believes, as virtually all really politicized Democrats do, that the Republican party has embraced a dangerous extremism and will do worse-than-Bush damage to this country's future prospects if it takes power now, before undergoing an internal correction toward the center.
In other words, it's hard to imagine the stakes in any performance being higher than those facing Obama in this debate. As if you needed me to tell you that. This evening I'll spend a bit of time more usefully, dialing up voters in Pennsylvania.
PBS Democratic debate transcript: 5 key moments
11 minutes ago