Oh, the anticipation!
As Carly Simon's song says, "We can never know about the days to come, but we think about them anyway."
So, anticipating Monday night's debate — expected to be a huge draw, thanks to you-know-who — I'm thinking about what might happen.
Surely Hillary, the lawyer, will prosecute a case that the Donald's unfit and ill-suited (he does wear baggy suits) to be commander in chief.
Certainly the Donald, showman/salesman/TV veteran, will mug and quip and gesture, playing the populist to counter Hillary's pitch to the jury of intelligentsia.
Just remember, it's a battle of the least-liked candidates since pollsters started polling.
So Hillary also needs to sell herself as more and better than she's viewed, and the Donald needs to show he's more than a distraction.
On matters of substance, Hillary wins, if anyone cares. And with expectations so low for Trump, how does he not do well?
This cycle's been practically substance-free. And you know what they say about TV debates: Watch body language, and to know who wins, turn off the sound.
What a country.
Social media and cable "news" make us a nation where views are shaped with feathery "facts," then set in stone, all on the basis of snapshot polls and candidate controversies that impact the lives of real people not one bit.
Politics is like professional sports: closely followed, fiercely argued, but providing only entertainment.
I'm betting half of Monday night's audience tunes in hoping for stumbles or slapstick rather than substantive discussion.
(Gennifer Flowers? Are you kidding me?)
So, here we are: anticipating whether the most-watched debate in history includes a Clinton coughing spell or Trump slipping into one of his fits of political Tourette's.
Maybe the Donald hands Clinton a basket of deplorables. Maybe Clinton hands the Donald a bag of Skittles for junior.
Can we wade through 90 minutes without references to multiple marriages or Bill and Monica or Hillary's blood clot or Trump's crass incivility or each candidate's controversial charitable foundation?
What new can Trump offer about his hidden tax returns or his "university?" What else can she say about her emails or never-released corporate speeches?
We've got two polarizing, mistrusted multi-(at least) millionaires, one with zero experience in governing, the other plenty experienced but often under a cloud.
Fact checkers agree the Donald tells more whoppers than Hillary — a lot more. But the fact that the race is so close shows much of America doesn't care.
I don't buy the idea this debate is decisive. Too much still can happen. The national attention span's measured in moments. There are two more debates to come.
And, due to the hype, I expect Monday's debate will disappoint.
I expect Trump is more cautious than caustic, as if to say, "See, I'm not the misogynistic, race-baiting, crazy con man mainstream media says I am."
I expect Clinton unveils a scripted scroll of issue points coupled with cuddly croons about her service and herself, designed to deflate any notion she's "crooked," cold, or dying.
Yet, in this tight race of unlikables presenting a choice often described as one between "corrupt or crazy," there's a burden on contenders.
Each must maintain a fantasy: his border wall Mexico will pay for, her taxing the rich for new spending Congress will approve.
And each also must offer hope that he or she is the change America says it wants.
But any anticipation that one debate resolves this odd election ignores Carly Simon's simple truism: We can never know about the days to come.