Jay Leno‘s Tonight Show-hosting days are numbered, and he’ll be darned if he can’t step out of Carson’s long shadow before his final bow. Enter Barack Obama, Leno’s last hope. Obama’s visit will be the first time in history a sitting president has appeared on a late night talk show. But in the wake of unmitigated economic decline and decidedly deflated feelings of HOPE, Obama stands to gain—and perhaps lose—more from the sit-down than Leno.

Since the announcement, reporters and bloggers have done much speculating and unpacking of the motivations for Obama’s appearance. From across the pond, the Daily Mail reports:

While most of the people on The Tonight show will promote a film or record, Mr Obama will be pushing his economic rescue plan for America.

Critics accused him of dumbing down the presidency and of blurring the line between politics and entertainment.

But White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs said the show provided a ‘unique audience’ for the President to get his message across.

‘We don’t look at it as a process of demonstrating the President’s sense of humour,’ he said.

Rather, it was a chance ‘to explain the economic situation we are in’.

The article’s tone is skeptical of Obama’s forced, frequent reassurance to penny-pinching, hand-wringing Americans. But the Prez’s move to chat with Leno also meets criticism closer to home. President Bush’s (the 41st) speechwriter Mary Kate Cary believes “Obama’s Jay Leno Tonight Show Gig Will Diminish His Presidency”:

The president sets the tone of the conversation in America. As much as President Obama would like to be a man of the people, a “regular guy,” he’s not anymore. His job description encompasses being Commander-in-Chief, leader of the Executive Branch of government, and Head of State. He’s “The Leader of the Free World.” Doing Jay Leno lessens the stature of the office, and diminishes the man. On Leno, he becomes just one more talk show guest, a celebrity on the circuit promoting his latest movie or book. It’s a decision that speaks volumes about Obama’s approach to the office.

Cary projects that the “calculated judgment” of going on the Tonight Show will hasten the end of Americans’ honeymoon with our new Commander in Chief.

Indeed, Obama’s been hard-pressed as of late to court those hopeful Americans who voted for him. As such, “He has to be very careful about his tone,” Washington Post media columnist Howard Hurtz told CNN, “because if he yuks it up too much and seems to be having too good a time, it will be quite a contrast there with the pain the people are feeling with the crumbling economy.”

All I know is that tonight will be the first time in… well, ever, that I give Jay Leno and the Tonight Show my undivided attention.