Updated Debate Prediction
On the one hand, I can see how that might work--if she attacks, and he defends, the debate stops being about her. Particularly if he's been coached to be nice to her for fear of seeming "sexist" by the GOP's bizarre "don't ask our women any unfriendly questions" definition of the term. Because the more the debate is about Palin proving herself, the worse she'll do.
I was furious after the Convention because up through Obama's acceptance speech, everything had been fairly reasonable: this is my policy position, my opponent has that one, here's why mine will work. Then Palin came along and drove the entire campaign into the gutter by stoking cultural resentment with cheap shots, snarky attitude, and basically dividing the nation while speaking with no authority whatever. And for a few weeks it worked. Then McCain started playing completely idiotic lies in his ads, and no one seemed to be calling him on it, and between the two events I was so furious I refused to even talk about the campaign to anyone.
Then, in the past few weeks, we've had what you might call a karmic rebalancing, as the evil that McCain has spouted--as well as his reckless tendencies to gamble and grandstand--have really toppled him, and his campaign looks like it's heading into loser territory. (Fivethirtyeight.com has the statistical projections, and they're pretty staggering.) McCain just pulled out of Michigan to focus on Florida--Florida!--which is tipping toward Obama. And it's hard to imagine this loss wouldn't have happened without the millstone of Palin costing him credibility with adults who care about their leaders actually knowing things.
It's entirely possible that Palin's "attacks" will be lame antics that Biden can simply shrug off. This would be in keeping with much of the McCain campaign, who has only been able to attack Obama by lying about him; the truth tends to favor Obama's wisdom, caution, and careful policies, and any true thing they say about Biden is likely to be in non-substantive "gotcha" areas. Generally speaking, if they stick to the truth, they've got nothing. But if Palin LIES about Biden--and particularly if it's an ugly lie--then I can't see Biden NOT attacking. That's what he's best at. And moreover, he's also very likeable, even when he's on the attack.
So what this really comes down to is how disciplined Biden is, and how much control the Obama campaign has over him. But this leaves us with two options, not the most obvious scenario I was predicting earlier: either she attacks, Biden shrugs it off, and it's more or less a tie, or she attacks, Biden snaps back, and the whole thing melts down into a partisan bloodbath. Which, whatever else you might say, will make for pretty good TV.
In any event, if the worst thing happens and the veep debate turns ugly, two other things are guaranteed: first, that no one will actually care that much (this was the vice debate, and Palin's the only reason anyone's watching), so it will have little impact on the overall polls, and second, that no matter what else happens, Palin will almost certainly have to appear on network shows the day after (my birthday!), and this will again take her off message and out of her comfort zone. Expect more Palin gaffe clips on YouTube.
Don't forget how fragile she is when she's out of her element. A single offhand remark about Pakistan made to a passerby with a question made McCain sit beside Palin across from Katie Couric to explain what she "really" meant. It looked like Palin had been taken to the principal's office. (And predictably, McCain lied.) Even half a dozen unscripted questions from people who are actually skilled at asking them is likely to produce even worse results. So in a way, I don't even care about the debate: I want to see her press conference afterward. And if there aren't any press conferences, and the media doesn't raise holy hell, I'll be very surprised indeed. On press-conference-avoidance alone, Palin is now one month more cowardly than Dan Quayle.
Labels: current events