Is the McCain campaign freaked about Thursdays VP debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin?
Of course they are.
As the New York Times reported:
At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.
McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.
The wrangling was chiefly between the McCain-Palin camp and the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which is sponsoring the forums.
She is probably facing the most intense cramming/coaching session of her life over the next four days, but I expect Sarah Palin to do well in the vice presidential debate.
Gwen Ifill is hosting and the debate will probably not stray far afield from the topics she is studying. Each candidate will have 90 seconds to respond to a question, followed by a two-minute discussion. I expect that Palin will answer concisely and have lots of time left over. All she has to do is remember the gist of the McCain talking points and work on her syntax. She’s had trouble with that in her interviews but she’s had a lot of time now to get it straight so expect some improvement. The McCain camp has also shifted focus after a couple of mock debates that were reported not to have gone well. From today’s WSJ:
“It’s time to let Palin be Palin — and let it all hang out,” said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist.
The campaign is sending in Sen. McCain’s debate coach, Brett O’Donnell, to help with her preparation, advisers said. Though he always was expected to help out after Sen. McCain’s debate Friday in Oxford, Miss., Mr. O’Donnell now needs to “undo” much of her previous debate prep, which has resulted in occasional “rote” responses, one adviser said.
“We’ve got four days,” another adviser said Sunday. “People love Sarah Palin and she’s got a unique personality and presence we need to bring out — not shut down.” Aides will work with her this week to be certain her responses use “her words,” this adviser said.
My suspicion is that Palin, after four days of intense cramming with the best the McCain staff has to offer, is going to just be herself and let the chips fall where they may. This will certainly lead to a more relaxed performance and will likely, although I doubt she is capable of any in-depth analysis (she simply doesn’t know, and you can’t learn history and world affairs in four days), lead to better answers.
But the main reason she will almost certainly do better?
The bar couldn’t be set lower. At this point, coherence would be a win for her.
Look for her to jump that low bar and to be celebrated for it.
She won’t win the debate overall because Biden, I suspect, will do well, but she might manage a draw and for the McCain campaign that would be a huge win.