Open thread: O’Donnell vs. Coons

7:30 p.m. ET on CNN. The journey to the top of Mt. Everest begins with a single step, my friends. The good news? Ace is right that a solid performance tonight will move some votes. Her problem right now is people thinking she’s a joke; if she can explode that narrative, she’ll have a foothold. The bad news? I can’t help feeling a tad bitter that in the year of the tea party, with impressive candidates like Marco Rubio and Joe Miller poised to win, the most hotly anticipated debate of the campaign features the one Republican nominee who’s getting crushed in the polls and has all sorts of oppo research material against her. If Blitzer (who’s moderating) wants to, he can turn this into a national showcase for how allegedly “kooky” tea party candidates are. The worst news? The debate’s set to run until 9 p.m., which means … “Parker Spitzer” is preempted tonight. Damn.

CNN’s got a new poll out just within the past hour or so to help hype the debate further. No surprises in the overall numbers — Coons 57, O’Donnell 38 — but this bit is ominous for a candidate who’s trying to present herself as an everyman against the establishment:

According to the poll, Coons’ 19 point lead among likely voters is up from a 16 point lead in mid September. Among the larger sampling of registered voters, Coon’s holds a 29 point lead, up from a 25 point advantage last month…

In O’Donnell’s first two commercial’s she’s also said “I am you.” But the poll indicates that likely voters, by a 54 to 34 percent margin, say that Coons “better understands the needs and problems of people like you.”

Via Greg Hengler, here’s the Wolfman doing a little pre-debate spin. Apparently, we’ll find out tonight that Chris Coons is a “moderate” liberal in the Joe Biden mold with a “little bit of an independent streak.” Whatever happens, just remember: November 2 is going to be a great day. And not just because of the election.