Unusually high stakes in vice presidential debate
On Thursday, Sarah Palin has a chance to restore her image, while Joe Biden must avoid being long-winded or aggressive.
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Other strategists have suggested that, given Palin’s recent struggles, Biden should use his debate platform mainly to go after McCain and leave it to the media to comment on any missteps by Palin. As much as the Palin phenomenon has attracted enormous public attention – and could spur unusually high TV viewership for the 9 p.m. (EST) debate at Washington University – the vast majority of voters ultimately cast their ballot based on the top of the ticket, not the running mate.Skip to next paragraph
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For Palin, a low bar:
Scoring the Thursday debate may not be as obvious as it seems. Given Palin’s recent track record, she could even emerge with a victory of sorts just by appearing marginally credible.
“For Palin, we’ve been hammered for some time by the opposition about how insubstantial she is, how she’s an ‘empty-suit,’ ” says Mitchell McKinney, professor of communication at the University of Missouri, Columbia. “It’s really created the expectation that if she just gets up on the stage and strings words together and doesn’t fall out of her chair, some may go away from that thinking, ‘Wow, she’s not as bad as they say.’”
But, he adds, “if she does something or says something that feeds into that notion of an empty suit – even if it’s a slight misstatement – it would likely become the major gaffe or blunder that could really do damage.”
Still, the bar has been set so low for Palin, merely clearing that bar may not be enough.
“She does not have to match Biden. She doesn’t need to know foreign capitals and how to say Saakashvili. But she does need to know how to talk about America’s place in the world, the kinds of challenges we face, and how we might best respond to them.”
Working the refs?
Obama campaign officials warn against underestimating Palin. She did, after all, defeat a sitting governor in the primaries and then defeat a former Democratic governor in the general election when she won the Alaska governorship two years ago.
When she burst onto the national scene a month ago as McCain’s surprise pick, many Americans were taken by her charm, her big family, and Alaska frontier woman-cum-beauty pageant contestant persona. Team McCain believed it had found the key to winning over the white working class voters who have eluded Obama.
Now, the question is whether Palin has a second act.
As a precaution, Palin supporters have been “working the ref” in the run up to Thursday night.
PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, the debate moderator, has written a book about Barack Obama and other young, successful black politicians. This book, due to be released around Inauguration Day in January, shows Ms. Ifill is “in the tank” for Obama, writes conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.