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First thoughts: The witching hour

From Chucky, Mark Boo-ray, Count Montanaro, and Black Cat Dann
*** Approaching the witching hour: We now have a good idea of where the two campaigns will spend their last four days until Election Day. Today, Obama campaigns in Iowa and Indiana, and in between the events he heads home to Chicago to spend part of Halloween with his daughters. On Saturday, he travels to Nevada (Henderson), Colorado (Pueblo), and Missouri (Springfield). On Sunday, it's an entire day in Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati). And on Monday, per the New York Times, Obama hits Florida (Jacksonville), North Carolina, and Virginia (Manassas). As for McCain, he spends his entire Friday in Ohio; campaigns in Virginia and Pennsylvania on Saturday; then he's reportedly hitting New Hampshire; and on Monday, he's supposed to barnstorm through six states (including western ones like Nevada), with a final stop in -- get this -- Arizona.

Video: NBC Political Director Chuck Todd offers his first read on what the presidential candidates will be doing in their last few days of campaigning — and why.

*** Is McCain Michael Myers or Jason -- you just can't get rid of him? We've heard plenty of rhetoric that McCain is closing in on Obama's poll lead. But is that really happening? One poll definitely moved: In Fox's survey, Obama's lead is now just three points, down from nine last week (yet some have noted that the poll's weighting was changed). But other polls show a pretty static race. Gallup's registered-voter model has Obama up eight points, after it was nine the day before; the Washington Post/ABC tracking poll is unchanged, 52%-44%; and Hotline/Diageo has the race at 48%-42%, down one point from the day before. Oh, and then there is the brand-new New York Times/CBS poll, which has Obama ahead by 11 points, 51%-40%, essentially unchanged from its last poll that showed Obama with a 13-point lead. The good news for both campaigns: There are enough state polls out there -- including some by some questionable pollsters -- with enough diverse results that both campaigns can latch on to something that makes them feel better.    

*** Burying the competition: Was the Obama infomercial worth the millions the campaign spent on it? It looks like it. Almost 34 million people watched the 30-minute advertisement. In fact, as the Times reported, that total easily surpassed the audience for the final game of the World Series and last season's finale of American Idol. Also, the networks that ran the advertisement beat the one that didn't. Nearly 10 million people tuned into NBC to watch the ad; 8.6 million saw it on CBS; 7.1 million watched it on FOX; and the rest watched the infomercial on cable. By comparison, 6.2 million tuned into ABC's "Pushing Daisies." Poor "Pushing Daisies"; it's actually not a bad show, but it's one of those shows that would be more successful on HBO or Showtime. (We know, save the TV criticism for Shales, sorry Tom; but he does occasionally jump into politics, so fair play, right?).

*** Gore!!! The Terminator!!! Today, Al and Tipper Gore campaign for Obama in Florida on their single favorite day of the year Halloween (their VP Naval Observatory parties were legendary; Al has Frankenstein, the only guy who can go as Frankenstein and seem less stiff, bada bing!). The Gores will be stopping in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- remember him? -- finally campaigns for McCain today in Columbus, OH. It was approximately four years to the day that he stumped for Bush in Ohio.

*** Scary Movie (for Republicans): We believe we called it, but Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker (R) is now using a TV ad Hillary Clinton cut for Al Franken -- in which she argued that a Franken win would help Dems achieve a filibuster-proof majority -- against his Democratic opponent, Ronnie Musgrove. A new Wicker ad concludes, "Send a failed ex-governor to support Hillary's liberal agenda? Or a conservative with integrity and Mississippi values?" The clip Wicker uses is one of Clinton arguing for a filibuster-proof Senate; no mention of Franken, it's all about making Clinton the boogey-woman on this Halloween day. 

*** Exorcist III: The Defamation Lawsuit: In North Carolina, Kay Hagan (D) is now suing Elizabeth Dole (R) for defamation after the North Carolina senator ran a TV ad suggesting that Hagan said the words, "There is no God." Just when the Minnesota Senate race looked like it couldn't be topped for having the most twists and turns at the end, here comes North Carolina. By the way, there's some strange final-hours lawsuit news floating around that could stop Norm Coleman's momentum in this final weekend.

*** Obama's radio advantage is spooky: One of the under-written process stories of the cycle is Obama's dominance on the radio airwaves. You looking for a good explanation for why Obama is doing well in states with heavy driving populations (like Florida and Montana, for instance?), go to the radio dial, where he's outspending McCain by huge margins. It's taken Democrats YEARS to realize that radio is not a wasted media effort. Bush dominated Kerry on radio in '04 and well…

*** Fun (or scary) fact of the day: The last time a Democrat won the White House without winning Tennessee was in 1960. And that just happens to be the last time the state was wrong in picking the president. In fact, Tennessee has proven to be a pretty reliable bellwether in the past 100 years -- choosing the eventual winner all but twice since 1912. But Tennessee is even more important to the Republican ticket. No Republican has won the White House without Tennessee since 1924.

*** On the trail: McCain spends a second day on his bus tour through Ohio, hitting Hanoverton, Steubenville, New Philadelphia, and Columbus. Obama holds a rally in Des Moines, IA, heads to Chicago to spend part of Halloween with his daughters, and holds an evening rally in Gary, IN. Biden begins his day with a rally in Delaware (remember he's also running for Senate re-election there), and then travels to Ohio for events in Kettering and Lima. And Palin campaigns in Pennsylvania, visiting Latrobe and York.

Countdown to Election Day 2008: 4 days
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 69 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 81 days
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