Chance Seales, Media General National Correspondent - WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) -- Early voting has begun in several important states and 2016 campaigns are in a mad dash to the finish line.
Each day now carries the weight of an entire month during the primaries.
So going into this weekend, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are making the most of the time left, hitting up battleground states, and anxiously awaiting the return of an all important cultural X factor: "Saturday Night Live."
Trump finally preps
Republican nominee Trump heads back to Pennsylvania on Saturday, which has become his second home these past few weeks.
He's scheduled to hold a rally outside Lancaster, revving up a crowd in the make-or-break Keystone State.
Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes and droves of undecided swing voters.
Many of those voters, however, are suburban white women who are deeply suspicious of Trump's ability to conduct himself appropriately, much less presidentially.
Sunday will bring a big change of pace for Trump, as he'll reportedly settle down to focus on debate prep.
The billionaire was soundly defeated by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the first debate, and although Trump publicly claimed victory he's said to privately concede the necessity of better preparation going forward.
Prior to the first debate, the New York Times reported he was unable to focus, surrounded by a dozen advisers and ended up chatting more than practicing.
His camp has indicated that on Sunday, he'll be hunkered down studying the best methods to effectively attack and rebut Clinton during their Oct. 9 matchup in St. Louis.
Clinton visits North Carolina
Much of Clinton's campaign has focused on re-energizing President Barack Obama's diverse coalition that swept him into office twice.
It hasn't been easy, especially with millennial voters.
But one group that's consistently turned out in force for Clinton is black women. They repeatedly helped the former secretary of state trounce Bernie Sanders in southern states with large minority populations.
Clinton has carefully ingratiated herself with this population, embracing the Black Lives Matter message and Mothers of the Movement.
On Sunday, she's scheduled to make another overture by visiting North Carolina, which saw violent protests following the killing of a black man, who may or may not have been armed, by a black police officer.
In a time of strained race relations, Clinton has cast herself as an unwavering ally of minority communities demanding relief from what they see as a pattern of police brutality -- mainly against black men.
Clinton's physical presence in North Carolina conveys she cares and allows her to, again, contrast her tone and remedies for struggling communities with Trump's stop-and-frisk proposal.
The 'SNL' factor
Clinton doesn't have anything yet scheduled on her public calendar, but you can bet both candidates will be doing the exact same thing late on Saturday evening: watching their celebrity impersonators on SNL.
Kate McKinnon will play Clinton. Alec Baldwin will portray Trump.
Who will be the butt ... the blowhard … the brainless?
McKinnon thanked Clinton as she accepted an Emmy recently, so her portrayal is unlikely to be blistering.
No other television show penetrates the national psyche when it comes to politics quite like NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
Dana Carvey's impression of George H.W. Bush helped "not gonna do it" become an inescapable indictment. "I can see Russia from my house" dogged Sarah Palin until Election Day.
Trump and Clinton's teams will certainly be strategizing how to respond in real time.
Who knows -- the candidates might even show up.
Thus far, Clinton has bear-hugged her portrayal as an ambition-addled robot.
Clinton retweets memes and seems to get a kick out of her late-night doppelgänger. It's a smart strategy to reach millennials and indirectly prove she has a sense of humor about herself.
Trump was a good sport in the past and even co-hosted an entire episode of the show during the Republican primaries.
But now that he's the nominee, the candidate has grown less willing to laugh at himself, just as comedy writers find less humor in the possibility of his becoming president.
'SNL' won't be a game-changing October surprise, but it could certainly help or hurt Trump and Clinton's public image just five weeks before Election Day. Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales
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