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Listening back on the '08 campaign...

As you count down the hours to the end of this long, long election campaign, if you're tired of staring at the endless polls and projection maps, here's an excuse to give your eyeballs a rest and just use your ears for a while.

Clicking back through our '08 campaign archive just now, four shows leapt out at me from the scores of election-focused hours since the first candidacies were declared all those months (or was it years?) ago:

The appearance of Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket was a turning point of the campaign. The night of her acceptance speech at the Republican convention, we raised the curtain there in St. Paul, looking at McCain's high-stakes gamble on the Alaska governor. What I remember most about that hour was the spirited and fascinating exchange between Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

The next morning in St. Paul, we took a considered look at the life and politics of John McCain, with biographer Robert Timberg, Newsweek's Howard Fineman, and The New Republic's Michael Crowley. It may have lacked the fireworks of the previous night, but it offered a chance to take stock of McCain's career as he prepared to take the stage and accept the nomination he had fought so hard — and come back so improbably — to win.

On the Obama side of the ledger, it's hard to think of a moment more charged with expectation than the night of his acceptance speech in Denver. There at Invesco Field, we looked at Obama's challenge with Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, Jonathan Kaufman of The Wall Street Journal, and Laura Washington of The Chicago Sun-Times.

And yet the conversation on Obama that still rings in my ears was all the way back on Tuesday, November 6, of last year — exactly one year before Election Day. We talked with Laura Washington, James Traub of The New York Times Magazine, and Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, about a candidate — whether he would go on to win the nomination or the presidency, or not — who had clearly proven himself, as Tom put it, "a one-of-a-kind contender." Traub and Sullivan had just written long articles about Obama, looking at his background and what his candidacy represented, and the moment was ripe for an in-depth conversation about Obama and America. Whatever happens on Tuesday, it's a conversation we may be having for a long time.

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