The Note: Red (State) November

If the October surprise was that we weren't surprised, November's surprise is that we still might be.

(And Barack Obama and Sarah Palin definitely still can be.)

For consumption this Sunday: A presidential candidate sends back money to an aunt he didn't know was around, because she's in the country illegally. Another presidential candidate gets his nationally televised infomercial -- and tries to hawk cheap commemorative flatware.

A vice-presidential endorsement is turned into a quickie TV ad -- by the other side. A would-be vice president agrees to a hunting date with a Canadian comedian posing as the president of France.

Just enough surprises to remind us: For every certain assertion, there's a caveat; for every poll, an outlier; for every clear-eyed prediction, clouds.

The map may be turning blue, but red-state voters stand the best chance of glimpsing a candidate between now and Tuesday. Obama spends his Sunday hitting Ohio's three largest cities, (with Bruce Springsteen joining him in Cleveland), then visits Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia on Monday before winding his journey up in Chicago.

John McCain makes his final stabs at offense Sunday, in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (a superstitious candidate does his final town hall in a lucky spot), before ending his day in Florida. Seven states Monday: Florida, Tennessee (to reach a remote swath of Virginia), Pennsylvania (again), Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, and, finally, Arizona.

(Worth questioning, outcome depending: Why is McCain insisting on a final New Hampshire stop? Why is Obama not making a final Pennsylvania stop?)

Palin does a full Ohio day Sunday, then spends Monday in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada; she won't breathe blue-state air until after the election, save for a refueling stop in Seattle as she heads back to Alaska.

For Biden, it's all Florida Sunday, then Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania Monday, on his way back to Delaware.

If cartography is destiny, the landscape for McCain is bleak indeed.

"Mr. Obama was using the last days of the contest to make incursions into Republican territory, campaigning Saturday in three states -- Colorado, Missouri and Nevada -- that President Bush won relatively comfortably in 2004," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times. "The campaign's final days brought a reminder of how Mr. Obama's financial might had allowed him to redraw the political map. In addition to the states he visited on Saturday, Mr. Obama was planning stops Sunday in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, which went Republican four years ago."

"Barack Obama and the Democrats hold a commanding position two days before Tuesday's election, with the senator from Illinois leading in states whose electoral votes total nearly 300 and with his party counting on significantly expanded majorities in the House and Senate," David Broder, Dan Balz, and Chris Cillizza write in The Washington Post. "The senator from Arizona has not been in front in any of the 159 national polls conducted over the past six weeks."

The counter(spin): "The race is changing quickly," McCain pollster Bill McInturff tells the Post.

"We are certainly encouraged by the tightening of the polls," McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace tells the Times.

The overused phrase: McCain needs to draw an inside straight. The underused phrase: McCain needs blackjack, then again, again, and again.

"To win on Tuesday, analysts and polls suggest, the Republican nominee must win nearly all the remaining undecided voters in key swing states and peel a large chunk of 'soft' supporters from Democratic rival Barack Obama," Jim Tankersley writes in the Chicago Tribune. "Then he must hope that his supporters vote in overwhelming numbers, and that more Obama supporters than expected stay home."

"History does favor Obama on one turnout count: the weather. AccuWeather.com says it will be unseasonably warm and dry on Election Day," Tankersley writes.

The only thing left impervious to spin is the travel schedule, and the picture it depicts is cramped for John McCain. "Both candidates have spent the last week -- and plan to spend the final days of the campaign -- stumping almost entirely in states that went for President Bush in the last presidential election," Lisa Lerer and Carrie Budoff Brown write for Politico.

McCain might get them, if he could find them: "Persuadable voters have dwindled in the closing days of the presidential election: Nearly a quarter of likely voters report that they've already cast their ballots, and, among the rest, 93 percent say their minds are definitely made up," ABC polling director Gary Langer writes. "That underscores the peril for John McCain, trailing Barack Obama in vote preference with relatively few minds left to change. The dearth of movable voters marks the final shift from persuasion to turnout -- an effort, by each side, to get its voters to vote."

It's 53-44 in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll -- stable, still.

Why is McCain hitting New Hampshire? "Down by 13 points in the state according to poll released yesterday, McCain and his aides view his stop there as more nostalgic than game changing," Newsweek's Holly Bailey reports. "Indeed, a senior McCain aide says the candidate and his advisers have gone back and forth in recent days about whether the stop was time well spent in the final hours of the campaign. Also of great debate: Whether it was a good idea for McCain to take questions from voters, that could risk sending the candidate off message, or simply hold a rally. His aides were split, but in the end, McCain himself made the call: He would do a town hall."

Why is Obama not hitting Pennsylvania? "Mr. Obama's decision to forgo 11th-hour campaigning in the state could be seen as a sign of his campaign's confidence in his standing here. But the Obama forces continued to pour dollars into the state's television markets and were embarked on a last-minute get-out-the-vote drive that Gov. Rendell has described as unprecedented in the state's political history," James O'Toole writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Yet where you stand on the race depends on what you sit in front of: "On any given night, there are two distinctly, even extremely, different views of the presidential campaign offered on two of the three big cable news networks, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, a dual reality that is reflected on the Internet as well," Jim Rutenberg writes in The New York Times.

Where does Maureen Dowd stand? "The McCain campaign specializes in erratica, while the Obama campaign continues to avoid any dramatica," she writes in her New York Times column (and she lays the blame squarely with Steve Schmidt). "The ultimate riddle is this: Why doesn't McCain question why he has become a question mark?"

Twelve of the 14 smart folks looking into The Washington Post's "Crystal Ball" say Obama is going to win -- a list that includes Ed Rollins and Erick Erickson.

The five questions we'll answer Tuesday, per The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos: "Is the 'Reagan Revolution' over? . . . Is America prepared to move beyond its racial divisions? . . . Are young people becoming a driving force in American politics? . . . How much do Americans care about their image in the world? . . . What does it mean to be a conservative?"

Back to basics: "For Republican John McCain, that means reiterating that he is an experienced leader, tested in crisis, who advocates the low-tax economic approach best able to spur a recovery. Democrat Barack Obama counters that his own agenda embodies the change sought by a worried nation and that his rival offers only a continuation of the failed policies of President Bush," Larry Eichel writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Keystone State, key to McCain: "His campaign, in the closing days here, is banking on a swarm of independent voters and conservative Democrats turning his way," Josh Drobnyk writes for the Allentown Morning Call. "It has dispatched Sen. Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, and a slew of moderate Republicans to pitch McCain's credentials to voters in the Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia suburbs."

We know the other states that matter: "Florida is going to make history Tuesday in a way nobody expected," Beth Reinhard writes in the Miami Herald. "It figures to either cap Democrat Barack Obama's sweeping victory in the presidential election -- or, possibly, become the springboard for a remarkable rally by Republican John McCain. And, like the epic battle of 2000, it could be very close."

For the post-mortem: "By the time McCain ran his first ad in early September, Obama had already spent $9 million on television [in Florida]," Reinhard writes.

More for that file: "If John McCain pulls off a victory in Florida Tuesday, he can thank Gov. Charlie Crist," Steve Bousquet writes in the St. Petersburg Times. "If Barack Obama pulls off a victory in Florida Tuesday, he too can thank Charlie Crist. Lobbied by a Democratic legislator, Crist, a former walk-on quarterback, 'called an audible' and quickly extended the hours of early voting at a crucial moment. He said it was the right thing to do."

Early indicators? "A huge increase in early voting has given Democrats a decided advantage over Republicans in Florida -- a major departure from statewide voting trends four years ago, according to a Miami Herald analysis of early and absentee ballots cast so far this year," Rob Barry, Marc Caputo and Scott Hiaasen report for the Miami Herald.

Checking in on Ohio: "Barack Obama stands on the threshold of history -- if his poll numbers hold up," Darrel Rowland writes for the Columbus Dispatch. "The final Dispatch Poll shows the Illinois Democrat with a 6-point lead in Ohio, virtually identical to the 7-point advantage he held a month ago. The survey is one of many in key states across America that indicate Obama is headed toward a win Tuesday that might not be close, although Republican John McCain is furiously trying to mount one more comeback and prove the pollsters wrong."

"Locally, the early-voting campaign, designed to nail down as many votes as possible long before the polls open on Election Day, is going much better for the Democrats than for the Republicans," Howard Wilkinson writes for the Cincinnati Enquirer. "In Hamilton County, Democratic campaigns to convince voters to ask for absentee ballots have generated nearly 43,000 requests, compared with just over 26,000 for the Republicans."

Byline: Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I believe we can and we must chart a new course led by President Barack Obama. How can it be any other way?" Clinton writes in a New York Daily News op-ed. (Didn't she spend a few months of her life trying to convince us that it had to be another way?)

Was this supposed to help? "[Vice President Dick] Cheney was stumping for Republican candidates in his home state of Wyoming, a long distance from McCain, who was in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and just the way the Republican candidate's campaign likes it. Even so, the deeply unpopular Cheney's words of praise for McCain as 'the right leader for this moment in history' gave Obama an easy opening," Michael McAuliff writes in the New York Daily News.

"That endorsement didn't come easy -- Sen. McCain had to vote with George Bush 90 percent of the time and agree with Dick Cheney to get it," said Obama, ABC's Jake Tapper reports.

"If you ever had any doubt about John McCain and whether he'd continue the Bush policies, you can put them to rest now," said Joe Biden, per ABC's Matthew Jaffe.

The new Obama ad juxtaposes endorsements: Warren Buffett and Colin Powell, vs. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The Cheney quote, as featured in the ad: "I'm delighted to support John McCain and . . . I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president Sarah Palin."

Speaking of interesting timing: "Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said Saturday he didn't know his aunt was living in the United States illegally and believes that laws covering the situation should be followed," per the AP's Nedra Pickler. "The Associated Press found that Obama's aunt had been instructed to leave the country four years ago by an immigration judge who rejected her request for asylum from her native Kenya."

"News of Onyango's legal status, which the AP confirmed through sources, including a federal law enforcement official, provided an unwelcome diversion for the Obama campaign during its final push toward Election Day and stoked suspicions among supporters of a political motive behind the timing of the leak," Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reports.

Then there's the prank call. (How did they get through? How did it last so long? What have Gov. Palin's other conversations with real world leaders been like?)

From the very many highlights: "You know, I can see you as president one day," the caller cooed, in an accent like Pepe Le Pew, per the write-up from ABC's David Wright, Alyssa Litoff, and Bret Hovell.

Palin giggled. "Maybe in eight years!" she said.

Between the hunting date, the views of Belgium, and hugs for Carla Bruni, a classic all around.

The response from Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt: "C'est la vie."

Per ABC's Jake Tapper, the response from Obama senior adviser Robert Gibbs: "I'm glad we check out our calls before we hand the phone to Barack Obama."

Yes, she (unwittingly) played along with a Canadian comic team. But Sarah Palin is going the entire campaign without doing a Sunday show.

ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" features a face-off between David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist, and Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager.

Davis and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe are on "Fox News Sunday," along with Karl Rove.

"Face the Nation" has Axelrod, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"Meet the Press" features Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.

CNN's "Late Edition" has Pennsylvania's senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Arlen Specter, a Republican. Four governors are also on the program: Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn.; Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; and Deval Patrick, D-Mass.

Obama sits down with CBS' Katie Couric Sunday, for an interview that will air Sunday and Monday.

The Kicker:

"No, I'll be a careful shot, yes." -- Sarah Palin, responding to what she thought was French President Nicholas Sarkozy saying he wanted to go hunting with her, "as long as we don't bring Vice President Cheney."

"As a reminder, all undergarments are non-refundable." -- John McCain, on "Saturday Night Live."

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