At the Democratic National Convention four years ago, a tall, lanky newcomer to the political arena took the stage for the keynote address. Without meaning to, and before John Kerry's campaign had come to a close, Barack Obama began the election cycle we're about to complete.
In that moment, war-weary Democrats and Republicans alike started talking about the future and looking for a candidate who stood a chance at uniting the deeply divided nation. And so, before President George W. Bush had even declared his second victory, the United States was already looking for his successor.
It's been a long four years, and it's hard to believe it's about to end. We've finally made it past all the endless primaries, theatric conventions, epic gaffes and historic triumwphs.
But there's one final step, and it has the potential to be the most damaging of all. In the next two days, John McCain and Barack Obama will make their final pleas to voters, and they're not going to hold back.
In the past week alone, the ads have become progressively more calculated, and, at times, negative. Obama's camp aired a 30-minute infomercial, strategically placed six days before the election and costing millions of dollars. The McCain campaign gave their ads featuring Hillary Clinton criticizing Obama an encore, as both candidates and their running mates campaigned wherever they could find a stump.
Especially in Ohio, where voters are so coveted, the election saturation is only going to intensify. We're barely keeping our heads above water as it is, and the next two days could be suffocating.
If you're one of the thousands of Ohioans who has already voted, feel free to tune us out and play sudoku. It's on page C3. But if you haven't, just listen for a minute.
It's important to try to stay grounded and keep an open mind for the next two days. There isn't much either candidate will say that you haven't heard before, but they're going to say it anyway.
Try to listen, even if you've already decided whom to vote for. If nothing else, this election is so historic it's not something you want to miss. Give yourself an election coverage limit and split it between the candidates and various news sources. We suggest trying to stick to media that focus on news, not opinions. If things get too negative or clearly biased, change the channel or turn the TV off altogether.
We ran an article from the Associated Press last week listing ways to deal with election fatigue. One of the suggestions was to remember that no candidate is as bad as you think he is. Both candidates only want the best for the nation, regardless of what the other guy tries to tell you. Policy disagreements are not a measure of patriotism, and if your guy doesn't win, the country is not doomed.
Take a deep breath. It's almost over. And if you're voting tomorrow, get to the polls early.