UPDATE: post-debate analysis and polling in the comments section.
I am the rare Democrat who is not particularly looking forward to tonight’s Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.
Biden, long-respected in D.C. and across the country as a solid officeholder and seasoned foreign policy expert, has a high bar to clear. This gaffe-prone candidate must avoid misspeaking, and he must do it while squaring off against a semi-likeable woman, which is always a bit more tricky.
Meanwhile, all Palin must do to exceed expectations is avoid spitting up on herself a little. The public expects her to know nothing, and to be able to articulate even less than that. She is bound be able to exceed that expectation. And to the extent she fails to deliver a clear answer to a question, you can bet she and the backroom spinners will blame it on Palin being “picked on.”
Biden debating Palin is like a table full of very good poker players, with one idiot greenhorn at the table who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Often, the greenhorn will mess up the entire game so badly that nobody is able to play well. In that context, Palin would be best served by getting agressive early, and staying on the attack. She’d be seen as “fiesty” on her own merits by some, and meanwhile it would throw Biden off his game so badly he might be unable to score many points of his own.
Some pundits are expecting the debate tonight to be the beginning of the end (or, after the last several days, maybe the end of the end) for the McCain campaign.
I just don’t see that decisive of a play in the cards tonight. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if after watching, everybody I know declares Biden the clear winner of the debate, only to find in overnight polling that voters across the country liked Palin’s performance better.