Starting Gate: Getting Up To Speed

With less than a month to go, the pace of the 2008 campaign is about to shift into hyper-drive. There's one face-to-face meeting between the principles left on the calendar and after that, a flat-out sprint to the finish. With so much happening, here's a quick look around the track this morning:
  • While the McCain-Palin ticket continues to press the issue of Obama's connections to William Ayers, their campaign has released a new Web ad this morning on the subject, calling Barack Obama "too risky for America."
  • In an interview with ABC News, Obama responded to the Ayres issue, saying, "all these statements are made simply to try to score cheap political points." Obama added: "I am surprised that, you know, we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face."
  • About 63.2 million Americans watched Tuesday night's presidential debate, according to Nielsen, about 11 million more than watched the first one but short of the 70 million who tuned in for the vice presidential face-off. The debate ranks 10th all-time for presidential debates and was the highest-rated presidential debate since 1992.

  • The NRA is endorsing McCain and the pro-gun group says its spending for the campaign will reach into "eight figures," according to the AP.
  • Democratic strategists are increasingly confident that Obama will not only win the election, but that he will win it comfortably, perhaps in a landslide, the Politico reports.
  • But former Bush strategist Karl Rove argues that the race isn't over yet. "There are probably more undecided and persuadable voters open to switching their choice than in any election since 1968," he writes in his Wall Street Journal column, adding that both candidates have challenges in winning them over.
  • The Obama campaign has sent two of its top field operatives to Florida, reports CBS News chief political consultant Marc Ambinder, "a sign of its confidence that the state, with 27 electoral votes, is tilting toward the Democratic candidate."
  • Oprah Winfrey will headline a fund-raising event for Obama this Friday aimed at courting women donors, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
  • Mortgage industry experts are casting doubts on McCain's new plan to help rescue troubled homeowners, calling it unrealistic, the Washington Post reports.
  • In an affidavit to the Alaska panel investigating Governor Sarah Palin's firing of a state official, Todd Palin "defended his role as a close advisor to his wife Wednesday but adamantly denied that he meddled in her administration to try to settle a family dispute," the AP reports.
  • The Real Clear Politics average of national polls shows Obama with a 5.2 percent lead.