It's mid-September, a time when the days grow shorter, the leaves begin to fall and all across the land thoughts turn to ... well, not to presidential politics.
Even so, 10 Democrats clamoring to win the White House in 2020 will return to the debate stage Thursday night for three hours of questions and answers, elbows and jockeying, and all the carefully scripted spontaneity the candidates can muster.
The number is down from the 20 contestants who participated in the first and second round of debates, which were split over two nights in June and again in July.
Still, the format will be familiar to any who tuned in for those broadcasts; the forum is not so much a debate but an opportunity for voters to see the candidates answer a series of questions and react to their rivals while standing side by side.
ABC is putting on the show, telecast from Houston, along with the Spanish-language station Univision.
Q. What time is the debate?
A. It begins at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
Q. Why was the field cut in half? A virulent flu that struck the politically ambitious?
A. Um, no.
Invitations were extended only to those who met requirements established by the Democratic National Committee. The criteria were tightened to make it harder to reach the debate stage.