The Note: Tabled Motions

Here they all come -- socialists and terrorists and (though still not a certain evangelist) -- plus a plumber who gets a late chance to join them. (Surely, the president's invitation was lost like a swing-state mailer.)

So Sen. John McCain sets an interesting table for these final two weeks, and throws everything he can onto it. (Is that really a Republican candidate calling a Democratic candidate a liberal? And your campaign is really all about the economy, senator?)

But voters may no longer be hungry, even for red meat. (And how many dishes can they stomach, anyway?)

McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin will work it hard on their diminished map. But that's no guarantee that anyone will still be listening. And there's a trap here: the more they fight, the more they fall into the flailing/erratic quicksand put in place by their rivals.

Sen. Barack Obama will be able to take two days off the trail to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii, most likely without serious worry about ceding ground.

He's got it to spare (even if Sen. Joe Biden does his best to wear it down): It's a nine-point Obama edge -- 53-44 -- in the first day of the ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll. The fundamentals, shall we say, appear soundly in place: "John McCain has climbed back from his record shortfalls on economic empathy and 'change' since the final presidential debate last week -- but not enough to alter the basic dynamic of his contest with Barack Obama," ABC Polling Director Gary Langer writes.

With apologies to Joe the Plumber . . . Obama "still leads in trust to handle the economy overall, voters' overwhelming issue, by 16 points, 55-39 percent, essentially the same as pre-debate," Langer writes.

How does McCain win without this edge? "Here is Barack Obama's favorite number right now: 49 percent of likely voters say he is the best candidate to handle an unexpected crisis. Only 45 percent of likely voters say that about McCain, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reports in his new blog. "What a difference four months makes."

A glimmer: "While Obama's lead is steady across these polls, there were indications that McCain has improved his position on some issues and some attributes important to voters' decision-making," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post. "Since the Post-ABC poll taken before the final debate, McCain has narrowed the gap with Obama on understanding the economic problems people in the country are facing, on bringing needed change to Washington and on the question of which candidate is the 'stronger leader.' "

It's a 12-point Obama advantage -- 53-41 -- in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

"As voters have gotten to know Senator Barack Obama, they have warmed up to him, with more than half, 53 percent, now saying they have a favorable impression of him and 33 percent saying they have an unfavorable view," Megan Thee writes in The New York Times. "But as voters have gotten to know Senator John McCain, they have not warmed, with only 36 percent of voters saying they view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably."

An opening, from Sen. Joe Biden: "Mark my words," Biden said Sunday, per ABC's Matt Jaffe. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. . . . Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

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