The Campaign Spot

Do Not Read This Post While Standing On a Ledge

I hate to be Mr. Glum, but I find it surprisingly possible that Sarah Palin will not only lose tomorrow night’s debate, but come across quite badly.

The weakness of Sarah Palin, we are told, is that she’s a lightweight. I don’t necessarily buy that, but I do think that her career path has left her underexposed to some national issues, and she’s got a steep learning curve, particularly in the area of foreign policy. She also sometimes just completely misses very easy questions. (Next time someone asks her what newspapers and magazines she reads, “National Review” would be a fine answer. Name something, lest one think that the answer “any of ‘em, all of ‘em” justifies headlines like, “Palin doesn’t specify where she gets her news“.)
As noted, any mistake she makes will be trumpeted as a sign she’s not ready for office. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is about one step away from Jonah’s parodic predicted declaration of “Get these squirrels off of me!” In a fair world, a debate moderator who did not have a financial stake in the election of the Democratic candidate would mention Joe Biden describing U.S. diplomatic meetings in Tehran that didn’t happen, and attacks on him personally from terrorists in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq that didn’t happen, ask if his repeated hallucinations are a result of recreational pharmacology and insist that he take a drug test right then and there. But we know this is not a fair world.
Anyway, with the market volatility, banks closing, fuel shortages in the Southeast, Ford, GM, and Chryster sales plummeting, the housing market likely to be going through a lengthy tough stretch, negative GDP growth this quarter, etc., my guess is that the country is yearning for competence and a sense of far-reaching knowledge — the firm hand on the tiller in choppy waters, etc.
Joe Biden may completely screw up Thursday night. But if he doesn’t, and he just comes across as a blowhard, he’ll probably be perceived as the winner. Americans, I suspect, will decide that they can live with an insufferable know-it-all if he seems to actually know something, as opposed to the nice woman who seems like she could be living next door.
Maybe I’m wrong. I strongly suspect that Americans will go into this debate liking Palin a lot more than they like Biden. But do they trust her to lead the country during a time of crisis? Palin is going to have to demonstrate A) knowledge of her familiar topics (energy, social issues, etc.) and B) at least some unexpected knowledge of her unfamiliar topics. If she came out and explained the revised rescue bill in the Senate, and why she and McCain support or oppose it, it would be a terrific start.
(If she mentioned that one of Biden’s first ideas after 9/11 was to send a $200 million check to the Iranian government, “no questions asked,” then she would go a long way toward puncturing the image of “foreign policy genius” Joe Biden.)

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