Yes, this is really happening. 8 p.m. ET on CBS. As a concession to how low public interest is likely to be, especially head to head with Oregon/Stanford, CBS won’t carry the whole debate. It’ll run for 90 minutes but they’re cutting out at 9 p.m. for … a re-run of “NCIS.” If you want to watch the last half hour, switch over to CBSNews.com or National Journal. Perfectly fitting treatment for a key policy subject that’s been mostly an afterthought this year.

In lieu of a “Quote of the Day,” here’s your thread to follow along. National Journal’s compiled “dossiers” on each of the candidates’ positions, but realistically, casual viewers are watching this for three reasons — to see if Gingrich challenges Romney, to be there in case Perry or Cain commits another brutal gaffe, and to enjoy the fireworks from the inevitable Ron Paul/Rick Santorum argument over whether Iranian archterrorists with nuclear missiles is something we should worry about. I’m actually less curious about their answers than I am about the priority of the questions. Do you start with Iran tonight or with the Eurozone meltdown? Do you tempt the field to dump on Obama for ordering a pullout from Iraq, knowing that fully 77 percent of the public supports that decision? And how long do you wait before the inevitable softball about The One and Sarkozy badmouthing Netanyahu? Newt, for one, is itching to swing at that pitch.

To get you warmed up, a vignette from the campaign trail earlier this afternoon:

Donning a rhinestone “PERRY 2012″ pin on her sweater, Anita Perry knocked on doors on the tree-lined Fairlane Drive here in South Carolina this morning, pressing residents to consider voting for her husband in this presidential election…

“Maybe he won’t stumble tonight,” [a local] woman told Perry as she walked down the steps of her home.

“I hope not,” Perry answered with a laugh.

“That’s OK, that was quite fun. I think it showed he was human-like,” the woman said.

And how is the human-like candidate himself “preparing”? Here’s a photo. Dude, I’m nervous.