By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
Transcontinental pilots know that's what the FAA calls its regional air traffic control center for this part of the country. If you pass over these parts by air, you had better be in touch with "Cleveland Center" -- and right now, in the world of politics, I'm writing this from "Cleveland Center." We're in the bowels (the nice kind) of the arena which will tomorrow night serve as the centerpiece of this race -- the arena that will host the closely-watched final debate before Democrats in Ohio and Texas cast the votes that may play a decisive role in the race on the Democratic side. Tim Russert and I just toured the stage and tried out the technical set-up, and all is well and ready. We're meeting at an Undisclosed Location tonight with our production staff to have a working dinner and go over questions and segments for tomorrow evening.
This has been a nasty day of back-and-forth between the two campaigns, to be perfectly honest. It's late in the race, everyone is exhausted -- and political candidates often fight to the death. We all hope tomorrow night's discourse will be civil and instructive. We are going to do our level best to see to it.
Not inconsequentially, we are also in touch with our meteorologists because we are girding for a major snowstorm here. The high-end prediction is ten inches, with a snowfall rate of an inch an hour during the day tomorrow. I may be in Cleveland much longer than I'd been counting on. And we have some additional concerns about the travel of the candidates, spectators and fellow members of the media. The skies over this city are right now sporting a low, gray, mottled overcast -- and my high school football-injured, thrice-operated-upon knee (playing outside linebacker and offensive end at 164 pounds seemed like a REALLY good idea at the time) is telling me there's weather on the way. And a whole lot of people are on their way here, expecting a debate tomorrow night.
Between now and then, we have to write, produce and anchor two broadcasts of Nightly News. Not helping matters is rampant illness back at the home office. Our thoughts are with our two senior-most producers, flat on their respective backs in bed with this horrible strain of flu that's going around. Patrick Burkey, longtime friend and the superb executive producer of the weekend Nightly News has come in on his day off (leaving his wife and new twins at home, I might add) to help us out, and I'm beyond thrilled to have him at the helm in New York. A member of our traveling party (no names here) has pinkeye -- so we're bathing in Purell at every possible chance. That's life on the road on the eve of a snowstorm -- and a Democratic Debate -- in Cleveland. We'll see you from here tonight, and thanks for watching.