The Note: Desperate Times . . .

The problem with attacks: "The Obama–Biden ticket will win by a solid but not overwhelming margin unless Mr. McCain goes personally negative against Mr. Obama, as weekend press reports indicate. If he does, the Obama-Biden ticket will win by a landslide of historic margins," Lanny Davis writes in his Washington Times column.

Does he have another miracle in him? "Krauthammer's Hail Mary Rule: You get only two per game," Charles Krauthammer writes in his column.

Newsweek's Jon Meacham makes the case against Palin: "She may be ready in a year or two, but disaster does not coordinate its calendar with ours. Would we muddle through if Palin were to become president? Yes, we would, but it is worth asking whether we should have to."

Does it mean anything that McCain, like Palin, is having outside days for debate prep? "Other than that last-minute audible, McCain appears to be engaged in especially serious preparations for Tuesday's debate, one of his last opportunities to change the trajectory of a race that may be slipping out of his control. He is certainly doing more formal preparation than he did before last month's debate in Mississippi," Michael Abramowitz and Perry Bacon Jr. report in The Washington Post.

Will we hear complaints of bias this time? "Sen. John McCain finally gets his long-demanded joint town-hall meeting with Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday night in Nashville, Tenn.," The Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick writes. "The Republican's performance in the second of three presidential debates -- the only one held in the format he tends to favor -- could help determine his ability to stay competitive in a race that seems to have moved against the Arizona senator over the past week."

More for your backdrop: "Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is poised to benefit from a wave of newcomers to the rolls in key states in numbers that far outweigh any gains made by Republicans," Alec MacGillis and Alice Crites write in The Washington Post. "In Florida, Democratic registration gains this year are more than double those made by Republicans; in Colorado and Nevada the ratio is 4 to 1, and in North Carolina it is 6 to 1. Even in states with nonpartisan registration, the trend is clear -- of the 310,000 new voters in Virginia, a disproportionate share live in Democratic strongholds."

If young voters turn out: "A USA TODAY/MTV/Gallup Poll of registered voters 18 to 29 years old shows Democrat Barack Obama leading Republican John McCain by 61%-32%, the most lopsided contest within an age group in any presidential election in modern times. Obama's margin is overwhelming across four groups of younger voters, divided by their engagement in the election, their optimism about the future and other factors," per USA Today's Susan Page.

Bad McCain news in Virginia: "With Barack Obama treating the Old Dominion like a battleground state and reliable polls showing a margin-of-error race there, some are cautioning that McCain is making a critical mistake by allowing the Democratic nominee to outpace him in terms of visits and resources committed," Politico's Jonathan Martin writes.

Virginia "has logged more than 300,000 new voters since the year began. The state does not record party affiliation, but it says that 41% of the new registrants are under the age of 25, and an additional 20% are between the ages of 25 and 34," Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times.

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