David Folkenflik

Imagine a ballot Tuesday that confronted you not with a choice between candidates named OBAMA and ROMNEY, but that looked more like this:

How much do you support the REPUBLICAN?

Pick only one.

Utterly _____

More than that ____

For much of Election Day, that was what viewers encountered in watching Fox News' coverage. President Obama was, in the words of Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy at the outset of the day, a guy who "promised hope and change — a lot of stuff — and he didn't deliver."

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This weekend, a slew of newspapers in key swing states including Ohio are expected to release their endorsements for the presidency and other elected positions.

Such external validation is highly prized by candidates, but it's no longer entirely clear why.

For most American viewers, including this one, much of Monday night's presidential debate on foreign policy was conducted as though it were in a foreign language.

References to Mali, to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, missile shields in Poland, "status of forces" agreements — could only have befuddled the voting public.

It's not that the candidates invoked unimportant issues. And it's not that the two held so elevated a conversation mere mortals could not understand. It's that they were debating almost entirely in tone rather than content.

Newsweek editor Tina Brown announced Thursday she would embrace a fully digital future as she revealed that the magazine's final print edition would be published at the end of the year.

Her announcement was a bow to gravity, as her unique blend of buzz and brio proved incapable of counteracting Newsweek's plummeting circulation and advertising amid an accelerating news cycle. Brown said there would be an unspecified number of layoffs as well.

Pundits fretted that the town hall format for Tuesday's presidential exchange would yield tepid results: undecided voters posing questions over 90 minutes with little more than a passing touch from the moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley.

Boy, was that a misplaced fear. "So much for the analysis this would not be confrontational," Fox News anchor Bret Baier said in the moments after the debate.

Atmospherically, the vice presidential debate pitted old versus new. Vice President Joe Biden lives in a world where no lily goes ungilded, and every 'lative is super. Rep. Paul Ryan speeds through campaigning energetically, like the heroic train in the new movie Atlas Got Cut Using the P90X Workout.

And the moderator Martha Raddatz? She came out guns blazing. No avuncular, passive Jim Lehrer she.

PBS' Jim Lehrer came in for widespread criticism last week for failing to control the first presidential debate. Now, moderator Martha Raddatz is confronting partisan criticism in the lead-up to Thursday night's vice presidential debate, the first and only direct confrontation between Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden.

I have spent the past few days sequestered with a crack team of political pros — actually, curled into a fetal ball, clutching a fading 1980 John Anderson poster — to gird myself for the vital first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

So many questions lingered:

Would Romney offer to wager Obama $10,000 on who wins the race?

Would Obama tell Romney, "You're taxable enough, Mitt"?

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