Posts Tagged ‘biden’

Mortal kombat: Palin vs. Biden

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

If ever there was a wild-card debate, it’s this one. Everyone’s expecting Biden to mop the floor with Palin, but I’m not so sure. First of all, Biden’s prone to gaffes, and has a motormouth that may as well be powered by the Energizer bunny. The more he talks, the less Palin has to say.  Which is exactly how her handlers want it: as of a few days back, the word leaked from the McCain camp was that the debate prep for Palin was going less than stellar (astonishing as that may sound), but keep in mind that prepping for a debate is different than prepping for an interview. What’s been killing Palin are the follow-up questions that take her out of the Land of Prepared Scripting, and there’s far less opportunity for that kind of cross-ex in a debate.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the odds against her are as long as a candidate at this level has faced. There’s a reason why the McCain camp was trying to postpone this one, and it’s the same reason why moderator Gwen Ifill is being subjected to an unprecedented pre-emptive attack in the name of expectations management. There may even be scenarios where Palin cancels the debate altogether and flies back to Alaska to deal with the sudden health problem of a family member (my money would be on Trig).  But . . .  there are also scenarios where Biden comes off as an arrogant prick, and Palin as a likeable Annie Oakley, dispensing frontier justice and witticisms from her quiver of pre-fabricated (yet potentially world-class) sound-bites, thereby arresting the free-fall into which her poll #s have gone into.  Stranger things have happened in American politics, that’s for sure.  Tonight is going to be a don’t-miss-it circus.

Governor Palin’s debut

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Sarah Palin’s speech last night was pretty much made to order: she scrupulously avoided all (well, most) of the really controversial stuff, and instead beat the drumbeat of family values and small town Americana. The questions that swirl around her will only intensify across the next few days, though, with the really big wild-card being whether there any other surprises in her past that the McCain campaign failed to discover.

And there may well be. But nothing that’s surfaced so far is likely to be damaging, despite the growing speculation. In fact, a lot of those “issues” in Palin’s past are likely to redound to the GOP’s favor. The “Troopergate” question, for example: Palin may have crossed the line, but the cop she was targeting was clearly completely out of control, and the details of the incident are unlikely to win her anything but electoral sympathy, regardless of what the law says. And as to the speculation on her/her daughter’s baby: do the Democrats really believe there’s serious upside to pursuing this? Based on what we know now, nothing that’s occurred in the Palin household is likely to disturb the voters of Red State America. If anything, they’ll rally around her more fervently.

And that’s likely to be the crux of the matter. Palin has virtually no chance of pulling any but the most diehard/confused of Hilary Clinton’s followers into her orbit. But she has energized the Republican base in a way that I suspect the mainstream media (and certainly the left) has yet to fully understand. There are many reasons why we’ve had only two Democratic presidents since Richard Nixon took over. One of them is the Dems’ perennial tendency to underestimate their opponents. In focusing on the Alaska governor’s experience, they run the risk of falling into the same trap.  McCain is betting that Palin will ignite the NASCAR circuits this fall, ensuring that the GOP base is mobilized and in the voting booths this November. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s probably right.  Whether this can be done without diminishing McCain’s chances of clawing enough centrist votes to win:  that’s the big question.