WASHINGTON - Can you believe it? It's almost over.
It seems as though we have been preparing for the 2008 election since 2004. What a ride. There was a time when the pundits said it was a given that Sen. Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. It was once a fact that John McCain's campaign was out of money and was dead, dead, dead. There was a post-Rev. Wright month when it seemed a feckless Barack Obama had lost for sure.
Now, as the people finally get to decide which guy gets the job no sane person would want, here are some of my awards for the campaign's highlights and lowlights. I know I've left most of them out. But somewhere, somebody's writing the hefty coffee-table-book version of its ups and downs.
•Whoever-came-up-with-that-idea stage setting: The Grecian columns at the Denver convention. Even Mr. Obama is mocking that weird decision.
•Best campaign video: Paris Hilton's announcement, poolside, in a bikini, that she was running for president after the wrinkled white-haired dude, Mr. McCain, compared her celebrity with Mr. Obama's.
•Most stunning soap-opera moment: Former family-man poster boy John Edwards, the Democratic running mate in 2004, admitting he'd had an extramarital affair while his wife was battling cancer and he was running for president.
•Best wardrobe malfunction: The authentic, maverick, wilderness-loving, moose-slaying Sarah Palin's acceptance of a $150,000 makeover from the Republican National Committee until she unaccepted it.
•Best-intentioned uh-oh: Joe Biden's saying that Mrs. Clinton would have made a better veep running mate for Mr. Obama.
•Most over-the-top rallies: Those where McCain-Palin supporters yelled death threats at the opposition and insisted - after Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin shouted that Mr. Obama was pals with a terrorist - that the campaign should take the gloves off and really get tough.
•Best visual debate performance: Mr. McCain's rolling eyes, manic grins, and steely glares at Mr. Obama in the last encounter. It was hard to pay attention to what Mr. McCain was saying about earmarks and the need for more tax cuts for the rich.
•Best side-show character created by Mr. McCain:. Joe the Plumber. Well, he's not a licensed plumber, we've never seen him from behind while bent over, and he didn't pay his taxes.
•Best description of a rival: Mr. McCain's reference to Mr. Obama as "That One."
•Best completely irrelevant campaign chant: Drill, baby, drill.
•Most completely irrelevant campaign brouhaha: Mr. Obama used the old bromide that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. Aghast Republicans said he was calling Mrs. Palin a pig because she likes to say hockey moms are pit bulls with lipstick.
•Best premature utterance: Mr. Obama's humble prediction that "I won't be the best president."
•Best mangling of the U.S. Constitution by a vice presidential candidate: Mrs. Palin's absolute confidence that the founding fathers put the vice president in charge of the Senate.
•Best emergence of unlikely bedfellows: The late-campaign side-by-sides of Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton - who spent months deriding Mr. Obama - that put listeners in a sugar-induced diabetic coma.
•Best 180-degree turn: Mr. Obama's insistence he would take only federal funds in the general election that was followed by his decision to rake in as many millions from contributors as he could.
•Second-place 180-degree turns: Mr. McCain flips against drilling in coastal waters, holding prisoners in Guantanamo without due process, extending Mr. Bush's tax cuts, and subsidizing ethanol.
•Best e-word epithet for the opponent: A tie between Mr. Obama's description of Mr. McCain as erratic, and Mr. McCains description of Mr. Obama as elitist.
•Most unfathomable comparison: Entertainment Weekly finds that Mr. Obama would choose to be Spiderman if he could be a superhero because Spiderman has inner turmoil and gets knocked around. Mr. McCain picked Batman who does justice sometimes against insurmountable odds and doesn't take credit for good deeds.
Its impossible to believe that many folks will miss the campaign of 2008, let alone the year itself. Let's hope the next president doesn't make us yearn for the good old days.
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org -90.20413