Two men debate tonight—-the son of an African father and middle American mother who became a community organizer and law professor vs. a Mexican-born Mormon whose father ran for president and who himself went on to make a quarter of a billion dollars on Wall Street.
Neither is easy to identify with, but the question is how well do they identify with us?
As supporters strive to paint each opponent as The Other (a desperate Drudge drags out Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the Huff Post pounds away at Romney/Ryan devotion to the rich), what will undecided voters make of the men trying to present the most user-friendly version of themselves?
This is no who-would-you-like-to-have-a-beer-with election, like that of W and John Kerry in 2004. Neither Obama nor Romney can present himself as the regular guy down the street.
But do voters really want a fictional character in the White House, or would they feel safer with a well-informed, self-confident executive who can manage a recovering economy and deal with complex security threats around the world?
Will they look behind sound bites and vague promises to measure the man who can best steer the country in next four years?
By late tonight, political pundits will be scoring the debate but, for voters who have to make a solemn choice, the stakes are much higher.
They will not be picking an American Idol in November.