"Obama has built leads nationally and in key states as the turmoil has returned the nation's focus to the unpopular Bush's policies. Now, the burden is on McCain to try to reverse his slide," per the AP's Liz Sidoti.
Forget Ayers -- what about Hillary? "She's the most important political figure not on the stage Wednesday in the final presidential debate, yet Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been mentioned just once in the first three presidential and vice-presidential debates," Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times. "That could change with increasingly desperate Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain still looking for voters and with Mrs. Clinton in attendance as Mr. McCain and his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, face off in Hempstead, N.Y."
(Speaking of Hillary: "What are the chances of Hillary Clinton running for President again? It depends on what the definition of 'close to zero' is," per the New York Dailiy News' Michael Saul. "Those are the odds Clinton placed on the likelihood of her launching another White House bid -- and she declared absolutely 'no interest' in joining the Supreme Court.")
Recall what Obama never quite did in the primaries: "In many ways, the debate represents a closing moment for Obama -- a final opportunity to bring order to what has been a long, chaotic struggle," the Washington Independent's Sridhar Pappu writes. "But the question remains: Is he capable of a decisive strike -- that moment where everyone can just say that's it, fini?"
Back to the slides: A jaw-dropping 53-39 Obama lead in the new New York Times/CBS poll (a lead that's just begging to be shaved in time for another set of comeback stories?).
Why is McCain staring at 40 from the other side? "The McCain campaign's recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target," Michael Cooper and Megan Thee write in the Times. "Six in 10 voters surveyed said that Mr. McCain had spent more time attacking Mr. Obama than explaining what he would do as president; by about the same number, voters said Mr. Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking."
(And take this, Bradley believers: "The poll found that Mr. Obama is now supported by majorities of men and independents, two groups that he has been fighting to win over. And the poll found, for the first time, that white voters are just about evenly divided between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, who is seeking to become the first African-American president. The poll found that Mr. Obama is supported by 45 percent of white voters -- a greater percentage than has voted for Democrats in recent presidential elections.")
Think those health-care ads are working? The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: "Which candidate will raise your taxes? Respondents, by 51% to 46%, say it's McCain. (Why? One reason might be Obama's advertising, which claims that McCain's health care plan would raise taxes for 'millions' of Americans.)"
It's 50-41 in the new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll -- and driving the numbers are . . . you guessed it. "With the economy dominant among voter concerns, 56 percent of respondents say they are confident Obama has a plan to deal with the financial crisis. By 50 percent to 41 percent, they don't have similar faith in McCain," Bloomberg's Kristin Jensen and Heidi Przybyla report. (The wrong-track number: Only 84 percent.)