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With First Debate This Week, We Really Are In Campaign's Final Stretch

We're nearly to the last of the many milestones that come along during presidential campaigns.

The primaries? Long over.

The conventions? All wrapped up.

Labor Day, when voters supposedly start paying attention? That was four weeks ago.

Now we turn to the debates, which begin Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET. The first setting: The University of Denver. The focus: Domestic policy. The moderator: Jim Lehrer from PBS-TV's NewsHour. The stars (just for the record, we suspect you know by now): President Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The rest of the debate schedule (they all are scheduled to last from 9 p.m to 10:30 p.m. ET:

-- Oct. 11, the vice presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and his GOP challenger, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wis.

-- Oct. 16, a presidential "town hall" style debate, covering foreign and domestic issues.

-- Oct. 22, the third and final presidential matchup, focusing on foreign affairs.

The Washington Post writes this morning that "on the eve of the first presidential debate," its latest Post-ABC News poll shows the race between Obama and Romney remains tight nationally. But, "52 percent of likely voters across swing states side with Obama and 41 percent with Romney in the new national poll."

Real Clear Politics, which sifts through all the major national and state polls, says it looks like 265 Electoral College are either "solid, likely or leaning" for Obama, with 191 fitting into those categories for Romney. It takes 270 Electoral College votes to become president.

Our colleague Ken Rudin says it's debatable whether the debates will change the nature of the campaign. Check out his look back at the debates since 1960 and whether they did or didn't make much of a difference.

We'll be following this week's debate, and the others, over at It's All Politics. Join us if you can.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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