POLLSTERS SAY, "In politics, a week is an eternity." The next five months will seem even longer.
Let's fast-forward through the future TV coverage and catch the campaign highlights. . .
"THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS" George Stephanopoulos: "Good morning, candidates. My first 'gotcha' question: Can you spell my last name?"
John McCain: "I'll let Barack go first."
Barack Obama: "S - T -"
Stephanopoulos: "I was joking. Senator McCain, serious question: Will you agree to a Lincoln-Douglas debate?"
McCain: "Yes, under one condition - I get to be Lincoln."
Obama: "John, this would not be a reenactment. Besides, I'm more Lincolnesque - a tall Illinois lawyer."
Stephanopoulos: "May I suggest a compromise?"
LINCOLN-LINCOLN DEBATE ON "HARDBALL"
(McCain is wearing a stovepipe hat. Obama has a beard.)
Chris Matthews: "Like the original Lincoln-Douglas debate, Senator McCain gets a 60-minute opening. Senator Obama then has 90 minutes. Senator McCain closes with 30."
McCain: "My friends - like Abraham Lincoln, I'm a humble, honest public servant. My opponent is well intentioned but naïve, elitist, and ultra-liberal. I will protect our nation. My opponent will raise your taxes. The choice is clear. Thank you."
Matthews: "Uh, you have 59 more minutes."
McCain: "I'll yield the remaining time to myself - for later."
Matthews: "Sorry. Use it or lose it."
McCain: "OK. Fellow Americans, I will defend this great nation. My opponent will tax it into oblivion. The choice is yours. Thank you. Very much."
Matthews: "Next, Senator Obama."
Obama: "Two score and six years ago, I was born. My parents didn't want me to grow up and become president, so they named me Barack Hussein. But I persevered. I was elected president of the Harvard Law Review . . . "
McCain: "Excuse me. I forgot to say something."
Matthews: "Sorry - you must wait until after Senator Obama's 90 minutes."
McCain: "I thought torture was illegal."
Matthews: "Senator Obama, please continue."
Obama: "I became a community organizer. . . We are the change we've been waiting for. We are the world. We are the children . ."
(73 minutes later)
"BARBARA WALTERS SPECIAL"
Barbara Walters: "Welcome to my home, senators."
McCain: "What a huge kitchen!"
Obama: "Should we sit at the kitchen table and discuss domestic issues?"
Walters: "I have a different idea. I want you both to relax and be candid candidates."
(CUT TO: Walters, McCain, and Obama in a jacuzzi - sipping pina coladas)
Walters: "Johnny, if you were a tree, what would you be?"
McCain: "Hmm. . . An Arizona cactus?"
Obama: "I'd be a hopeful tree, changing with the seasons. I'd have a swing for children, a hammock for the elderly . . ."
Walters: "Beautiful, sensitive."
McCain: "May I pick a different tree?"
Walters: "No, moving on. Favorite color?"
Walters: "Republican red. Cute, predictable. Barry?"
Obama: "When I see rainbows, I notice the colors run together - unifying the spectrum. Red, white, blue . . ."
McCain: "Just pick one!"
Obama: "OK, plaid."
McCain: "Fair enough."
Walters: "If you could be any age . . .?"
McCain: "How old is Brad Pitt?"
Obama: "I would be 47 - one year older - so, as president, I'd already be saving the oceans and ending our reliance on fossil fuels. And saying 'fossil' is not a dig at John."
McCain: "(bleep bleep)"
Walters: "Senators, thank you for sharing."
"NBC NIGHTLY NEWS"
Brian Williams, anchor: "The election is one week away. Joining me now is Tim Russert, our Washington bureau chief and host of 'Meet the Press.' Tim, what's happening?"
Tim Russert: "This race is over, Brian. I'm ready to project a winner."
Williams: "But voters haven't voted yet."
Russert: "True, but we've interviewed all 2,389 swing voters in the only swing state that is still a toss-up. They've made their decisions, Brian. It's no longer too close to call."
Williams: "What's the margin of error?"
Russert: "Zero. All 2,389 swing voters have signed contracts with NBC, promising not to change their minds."
Williams: "So NBC will be the first network to call the winner before actual voting. That will be historic."
Russert: "Yes. We're holding the announcement until we can interview both candidates and get their reactions - a victory sound-bite and a concession sound-bite."
Williams: "Another NBC exclusive. Thank you, Tim. Now, turning to other news . . ."
Todd Domke is a Boston area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.