Where we stand

Just want to set the scene for tonight. I said we'd look at polls once a month. It's about time, no? Let's start with Nate:

Clearly, the McCain campaign is now on the defensive, and needs to knock a couple of points off Obama's numbers across the board before it starts to reestablish some sort of winning electoral map. Tonight's debate could be a step in the right direction -- or, if things go badly for Sarah Palin, a near-fatal blow.

There's also some numbers on Sarah Palin, specifically, who at this point is doing some serious damage to the McCain ticket. You guys have likely seen this by now, but just in case you have not:

But it is the experience question that may prove her highest hurdle, particularly when paired with widespread public concern about McCain's age. About half of all voters said they were uncomfortable with the idea of McCain taking office at age 72, and 85 percent of those voters said Palin does not have the requisite experience to be president.

The 60 percent who now see Palin as insufficiently experienced to step into the presidency is steeply higher than in a Post-ABC poll after her nomination early last month. Democrats and Republicans alike are now more apt to doubt her qualifications, but the biggest shift has come among independents.

In early September, independents offered a divided verdict on Palin's experience; now they take the negative view by about 2 to 1. Nearly two-thirds of both independent men and women in the new poll said Palin has insufficient experience to run the White House.

Obama was able for the first time to crack the 50 percent mark, albeit barely, on whether he has the experience to be president following Friday's presidential debate, and the question is one of Palin's central challenges as she prepares to face Biden in prime time before a national television audience.

Also the McCain campaign is seriously on the ropes. Questioned about this on a conference call, they gave the following laughable defense:

Asked on the call how it was that things got to the point that they were aggressively defending red states, McCain advisers offered a creative defense. They said, in essence, that they'd played rope-a-dope with Obama, spending nothing in them while letting Obama advertise aggressively in them in order to waste his money.

"One of the strategic decisions our campaign has made is to let Mr. Obama spend his resources until we got closer to the election," Strimple said. Those states, he added, "will snap back aggressively in our favor."

Uhm, right. Anyway, that's where we are kids. We'll start live-blogging once the show starts.