Why Palin Probably Can't Win
Mind you, I'm not expecting a blowout. As I've said before, I expect Biden and Palin to both play it safe--Biden because he's been coached to shut the hell up, Palin because this isn't a safe environment for her like Fox News would be. But on about half a dozen blogs, I've gotten references to Palin's performance in the debates in Alaska and how powerfully she dominated. "Watch out!" I hear my Democratic friends saying. "We don't want to misunderestimate again!" (And by the way, the more you watch Sarah Palin, the more the George W. Bush parallels pop up.)
But if I'm seeing things correctly, Sarah Palin "won" those debates not on substance, but on charm. According to a BBC interview with Mr. Halcro, who lost to her in the debates...
""I don't think anyone could have beat her," Mr Halcro said. "It wasn't about how much she knew about the issues. People didn't care about her experience, they just thought, 'This is the drink of water we need'."And she beat the incumbent by presenting change and difference and newness. She's just really really likeable.
Here's why I think it won't work. We've seen her likeability already. She's the only reason people are coming to McCain rallies, she's the reason McCain spiked for a while there, et cetera.
But now the news is out: she's a national joke. A nice joke, a likeable joke, but a joke. And since the Convention high, her approval ratings have fallen to a net negative 3 from a high of positive 17. This is not because she's suddenly become unlikeable; it's because she can't even answer the simplest fucking questions from Katie Couric without making even her supporters cringe. I suspect if you canvassed America, you'd see over and over again people saying, "I like her personally, but there's no way she's qualified to be Vice President." She's not the drink of water we need.
So in the debate tonight, everyone will be obsessively focused on what the hell she knows. And frankly, after her last awful set of gaffes (on Russia, on Roe v. Wade, on "the newspapers" and the list goes on), she literally can't win. Even if she suddenly pulls out an appearance of competence, surely people will say, "Wow! She must have been really cramming for this debate! She didn't know half this stuff last week...um, do we want someone in the White House who's been desperately cramming for the job?" Those clips aren't going away, the meme has already done its damage--and particularly in the case of the CBS News clip that shows Biden and Palin being asked the same questions, and Palin fumbling awkwardly, you can't really blame "the liberal media" for being unfair. She's a complete embarrassment to everyone outside her base--and since her base of diehards is smaller than it's ever been (Bush's approval ratings hit several historic lows this week), she's going to have to win over new people who already know her reputation as an ignoramus. So again: the focus will be on what she knows, not what kind of beer buddy she'd be, and a pleasantly surprising performance still has that unfortunate word "surprising" in there.
If the economy weren't in crisis, I imagine the electorate would be a trifle more forgiving. But a crisis demands weighty people with serious answers, and Palin's really not up to it. What I predict will happen: She'll survive the debate just fine, and her supporters will breathe a sigh of relief...and then they'll pause and think, "Is it really wise to hire someone that makes us this tense?"
Labels: current events