As we await the start of the most-watched road trip by a Chicagoan this side of the Griswolds, five things we might learn from Sen. Barack Obama's foreign trip:
1. How good is this vaunted foreign-policy team really?
2. How's the new McCain message machine handling its first big test? (Having one message from the campaign per hour would be a start.)
3. How does an anti-incumbent candidate deliver a foreign-policy address that doesn't criticize the president while on foreign soil? (And how big a crowd of adoring Europeans is too big a crowd of adoring Europeans?)
4. Can the Clintons stay out of the news the whole time that the presumptive Democratic nominee is out of the country?
5. Can the presumptive Democratic nominee survive with as few as one workout a day?
For Obama, the trip's stakes are huge, and will make themselves known daily with every handshake, photo-op, and whispered aside. It's "a campaign-season audition of sorts for a presidential hopeful pledging a new era in diplomacy and an end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq," per AP's David Espo.
Every detail counts: "The trip is planned to put Obama into settings often occupied by presidents, including formal meetings with foreign leaders, public speeches and visits to historical sites," he writes.
For the highest-profile speech of his trip, he's not getting Brandenburg Gate itself next Thursday, but German media reports that he'll get it as a backdrop, with the speech itself at the famous Victory Column.
"If it comes off as the campaign hopes, with a steady flow of images of Obama looking thoughtful, diplomatic, and commanding on the world stage, the trip helps Obama address his key weakness, perhaps permanently," Slate's John Dickerson writes. "At the same time, the trip poses big risks."
"Obama knows that many Americans still have a tough time picturing him as commander in chief, and this trip could be make or break," ABC's Jake Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "The trip has real risks."
"He's got to show he can do the job, and above all . . . not make any mistakes on this trip -- a gaffe could be a killer for Barack Obama," ABC's George Stephanopoulos added.
Obama's 300-strong foreign-policy team "is on the spot this week as Mr. Obama is planning to make his first overseas foray as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, with voters at home and leaders abroad watching closely to see how he handles himself on the global stage," Elisabeth Bumiller writes in The New York Times.
New faces all around: "Most of the core members of his team served in government during President Bill Clinton's administration and by and large were junior to the advisers who worked on Mrs. Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination," Bumiller writes. "But they remain in charge within the campaign even as it takes on more senior figures from the Clinton era, like two former secretaries of state, Madeleine K. Albright and Warren Christopher, and are positioned to put their own stamp on the party's foreign policy."
Among Obama's enemies: hubris. "Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop?" columnist Charles Krauthammer writes. "Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. . . . For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?"