Given the debate's format on Thursday night, I expect Palin will do just fine. I will be quite surprised if she gets caught off guard or has a moose-in-headlights moment. I don't think she'll display much in the way of specifics, but she will get the values-oriented language right, and that should be good enough at least for a draw, and that will mean she beats expectations.
I know that the McCain camp is setting expectations on the VP debate as low as possible so if or when she does survive the debate it'll be viewed as a huge victory for her and McCain. That's their plan. I'm not certain how Biden will handle it. His overall knowledge is on a different level obviously, but how he approaches the debate will be pivotal, being that the media is just looking for those "sound byte" moments and side show theatrics to make their post debate chatter have some drama. Obama's camp should be explaining to people that she is an experienced debater and they have.
"We've looked at tapes of Gov. Palin's debates, and she's a terrific debater," Plouffe told reporters on a conference call. "She has performed very, very well. She's obviously a skilled speaker. We expect she'll give a great performance next Thursday."
This all lends itself to a strategy of Palin avoiding answering any questions in the debate that she's not comfortable with, and instead trying to shift the focus to attacks on Joe Biden. This strategy makes sense for the two reasons above. Biden is proud of his record and could feel the need to defend it, but, he only has two minutes in the highly structured format of this debate. So, the more he falls to temptation to defend his record, the less time he has to talk about what he and Senator Obama want to do. Additionally, it allows Palin to look tough and confident, with the seasoned Senator on the defensive.
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Joe Biden should say, at that point: "You know, I have to say, I was really interested in coming here tonight and hearing more about where Governor Palin wants to take the nation with John McCain, but all I've heard are talking points about me, especially with that last question. So, I'd like to yield my time here back to Governor Palin, if you want it Governor Palin, because I think we ought to know what you and John McCain want to do."
That accomplishes two things: First, it forces Palin to talk about something she cannot talk about (i.e., issues), if she accepts the extra time. She can dig her own grave from there. But it also puts her on warning that if she sticks to the strategy of attacking Biden, she might get called on it, and be forced to go back and reanswer the initial question. At that point, she might be scared off the attack strategy. Again, she'd then have to try to answer questions, and would undoubtedly fail.
I like his thinking on this too. Biden likes to talk, but the time limits will help him focus and shift it back to her. He has already said that he hopes she will promote the ideas that McCain and Bush hold so dear to their hearts.
There's a sort of pity factor beginning to surface after the disasterous Couric interviews. After you see a week of train wrecks, the sympathy factor starts to set in. That said, it's pretty embarrassing that she didn't show up to offer her thoughts about the first Obama/McCain debate. It's not like FOX News would have grilled her. All she had to do was say McCain won, blah, blah, blah. but hiding her and then defending her against unfair questions is McCain's strategy so far.
It's hardly unheard of for a vice presidential candidate to express views different from that of the presidential nominee. Joe Biden has already done so on occasion.
But in a later interview with Palin at his side, McCain claimed it was somehow "gotcha journalism" to have reported Palin's response. Gotcha journalism, to report accurately a vice presidential nominee's public response to a voter?
I bet that the VP debate gets higher ratings than the Ole Miss Presidential debate did...