David Broder urges calm on all sides: "An exaggerated optimism has swept through Republican ranks and an equally exaggerated gloom has infected the Democrats," he writes. Don't believe the polling swings: "I call those shifts 'suspiciously large,' not because I doubt the accuracy or the methodology on the surveys but because the years have taught me that such swerves in voter opinion are likely to be temporary."
Gail Collins isn't overreacting, either: "If the Obama brain trust seems relatively serene compared with its seething base, it's because they live in the Electoral College world, where the presidential race only takes place in a third of the country," she writes in her New York Times column. "One of the great things about this campaign is that both sides are convinced they're going to lose."
The politicking takes a day off (for the most part) for 9/11, with the candidates set to attend commemoration events and an evening forum in New York. "With no speeches and little fanfare, the two candidates will walk together down a ramp into the pit where the World Trade Center towers once loomed over lower Manhattan and lay a wreath at Ground Zero for the Sept. 11 attacks," Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman writes.
"Officials at the Democratic and Republican National Committees also said they would be going dark, refraining from advertising, though it is still possible that behind-the-scenes political battles could be waged; there have been no promises made that either side will call a truce in the seemingly endless press release war," per The Hill's Sam Youngman.
And the next two days, at least, figure to belong to Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska: She's home now, ready to see her son off to Iraq -- and sitting down for interviews with ABC's Charles Gibson, spread over two days. (The first piece of it will air on "World News" Thursday, with more to come on "Nightline," "Good Morning America," and a special "20/20" Friday night.)
"The sessions could be the first test of Ms. Palin's ability to parry substantive questions on foreign and domestic policy, and as she flew back to Alaska on Wednesday, she brought with her a squad of Mr. McCain's top policy advisers to help her prepare," Jim Rutenberg and Monica Davey write in The New York Times. "In a broader sense, the interviews will also provide fresh material for what is now an intense war between the campaigns to define Ms. Palin in the public mind, a battle that both campaigns consider potentially critical to the election outcome."
They add: "Aides traveling with Ms. Palin have reported back to associates that she is a fast study -- asking few questions of her policy briefers but quickly repeating back their main points -- who already has considerable ease and experience before cameras."
The New York Times editorial page sees significance in the timing of her rollout: "Just in time for that appearance [on ABC], Ms. Palin, who was proclaiming her family's privacy a week ago, will make a political event out of her son's deployment to Iraq. But as for talking to reporters in general, the McCain campaign sniffishly says they must first show 'some level of respect and deference.' "
A fresh round of battleground state polls help set the scene -- and it's close where it counts.
Three new polls from Quinnipiac University out Thursday morning:
Florida: McCain 50-43
Ohio: Obama 49-44
Pennsylvania: Obama 48-45