Some of the nicest, most gentle people I know are anticipating the Biden/Palin debate this evening with a decidedly bloodthirsty glint in their eyes. You’d think Sarah Palin caused Tourette’s to judge by the language I’ve heard in the last 48 hours.
The stakes are admittedly pretty high, especially for Team McCain. Given the momentum swing of the last two weeks, a truly disastrous performance by Governor Palin might make this election all but irretrievable with barely four weeks to go. Conversely, a stellar Palin performance could be the pivot that starts a swing back to the Red side of the force.
That said, I’m guessing most of those wishing for a Palin collapse won’t leave entirely satisfied. After almost two weeks of unremitting negative press, there are signs that Governor Palin is beginning to get her legs back under her. As proof, I offer a clip from yesterday’s Early Show where Ms. Palin was far more lucid than any of the previous clips. This reminds me that the Governor is not in the least bit stupid and – by all accounts – a very hard worker.
I would also offer a post from ABC News today that details her debate prep:
Palin’s debate preparations have been a mix of reading, listening to oral presentations and engaging in mock debates. A foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, played the role of Joe Biden. Aides say Palin has not been asked to memorize anything.
This strikes me as exactly the right approach as it’s not Ms. Palin’s ability to memorize talking points that’s in question, it’s her knowledge of the context in which the sound bites are uttered that’s missing. For example, she can, I’m sure, parrot the McCain position on why the surge in Afghanistan is necessary, but if the follow-up asks her to distinguish between our presence there and the Afghan experience of previous foreign powers, she’s almost certainly lost. Ditto on almost any other topic – the bailout, terrorism, taxes, etc.
At the same time, however, even the best prep won’t give Ms. Palin all the tools she needs to win outright. You can’t compensate for this lack of perspective in a day or two of prep, even in the beautiful confines of the McCain compound in Sedona. It just strikes me as a better approach than simply cramming in more and more sound bites.
Some of those trying to raise expectations for Ms. Palin have made much of her success in the debates during the Alaska gubernatorial race, but from what I’ve seen of those, she mostly did well by being the third candidate who was mostly ignored by the other two “real” candidates. This allowed her to pick her moments to slip in some one-liners and some sound bites that didn’t score a lot of debate points but which did resonate with voters. This is, Minnesotans will recall, the same tactic Jesse Ventura employed effectively in the debates with Norm Coleman and Skip Humphrey. She won’t be able to do this in a two-person debate.
My prediction: a couple of Palin faux pas, albeit none rising to the level of the Couric interviews, and a couple of word bobbles but no real bombs, from Biden.
Ms. Ifill, who has been the target of pretty intense blog/media attack over her upcoming book, will play it absolutely straight (she’s about as solid a journalist as you can find) and will give neither side reason to crow or complain.
Team Palin’s post-debate spin: “America got to see and hear the real Sarah Palin tonight, free of the distortion of the mainstream media, and they saw why John McCain picked her as his running mate: she’s a strong, competent woman with a record of real accomplsihment and reform who will change things in Washington. She went up against a lion of the Senate tonight and more than held her own, she showed America that McCain/Palin is the real ticket for change this country needs.”
Team Biden’s post-debate spin: “America wanted to hear tonight about the issues that are really important and that’s exactly what Joe Biden did by talking about how eight years of George Bush, John McCain and the Republican party have put us in the worst economic crisis since Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Senator Biden spelled out the Obama/Biden policies and really underlined the choice we have come election day: a third term for George Bush and the Republican’s bankrupt, trickle-down economic policies or the real change for working men and women that Obama/Biden represents.”
The blogosphere will, of course, erupt with spin from both directions and my rule of thumb is that the more frantic the spinning from one side or the other, the more worried they are that their guy or gal got the worse of it.
Either way, what fun.
- Austin how to invest fine
Filed under: Communications, Politics | Tagged: Barack Obama, Gwen Ifill, Joe Biden, John McCain, Sarah Palin | 1 Comment »