A lot has been made about how important tonight is for Sarah Palin, and it is. But the bar is not that high. Her challenge tonight is simply to present herself as competent, savvy and capable. She has been assisted in writing her speech by one of the best in the business, Matt Scully, so there is little doubt that the speech will be sharp, witty and substantive. She needs to be able to change the subject from her back to Obama. The problem with the roll out of Palin is that it has permitted Obama to slip into the background after some very rough weeks of negative publicity. He even appeared statesmanlike and kind in shooting down criticism of Palin. The focus has not been on Obama’s competence and experience, but on Palin’s. Many insightful readers have pointed out that she has a much more impressive resume of accomplishments than Obama, even though she is number two on the ticket. She should contrast the accomplishments of McCain-Palin with those of Obama-Biden, and thus pivot the narrative from “Who is this woman?” back to “What’s with the empty suits on the other ticket?” This is a very achievable objective. This is, after all, just an introductory speech. Her real test will come in the debates. There, she’ll be up against the consummate Washington insider — one with a genetic inability to control his mouth. Properly briefed on a wide range of issues (look for the “Who is the President of Kerplakistan?” sort of questions with her — as if the debates are a pop quiz rather than a contrast of ideas), she can win that battle too. But before she gets there, she really needs to be able to get the narrative off of “inexperienced mayor becomes VP candidate.” Whether that characterization is fair or not (and many believe it is not), she has to force a change of focus. She has the base with her. Tonight is about reaching out and reminding the great middle why she and McCain have what it takes.
The one and only.