Tonight will mark the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama and our expectations are, well, not too high. This, however, is the last chance for McCain and Obama to go face-to-face, so let's hope they make it count.
Consider this: The first presidential debate, which was moderated by Jim Lehrer, was an awkward confrontation between two candidates who seemed uncomfortable to be mere feet away from each other. The second debate between the two turned into a 90-minute stump speech with the only highlight being Tom Brokaw's newsy charm, which was at a high when he asked Obama and McCain to get out of the way of his teleprompter.
Obama has been gaining points in Ohio and around the country. Because of this, McCain might employ the tactics of his vice presidential nominee and take on the Illinois Democrat head-on with accusations of ties to former radical Bill Ayers (God help us if the flag pin makes its return to the debate arena). Also, Obama, fearing a slip in the polls just weeks before Election Day, might remain relatively mum and stick to his talking points.
But wait, this is supposed to be a debate. Isn't it?
We don't want the sweeping generalities of an Obama stump speech, and we definitely don't want the McCain campaign's low-blow attacks that offer little assurance to the millions of families facing the impending perils of the economy.
Luckily, tonight's debate format actually seems as if it could make for a productive "discussion." Yes, that's the keyword. It's definitely been lacking during the last two months, so it's about time we got the candidates talking to each other.
The debate, which will focus on domestic issues, will be sliced into segments where each candidate will offer two-minute answers to the moderator's questions. These answers will be followed by a five-minute discussion between the two candidates. Maybe the two will even be able to look at each other.
Forget the Joe Six-packs and hockey moms asking the questions that got no answers in the town hall debate. Forget the awkward stump speeches that plagued the first one. Maybe CBS's "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer, who will be moderating the debate, will keep the candidates honest. After all, that's what the American people deserve.
Obama and McCain have offered us little in the previous two debates. We're getting the same old rhetoric and no new answers. But if we've learned one thing, it's that the candidates, well, suck at answering questions.
So, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, it's time to give us something substantive. We don't want attack. We don't want stump speeches. We don't want a new slogan we can slap on our bumper.
We just want answers. Is that too much to ask?