All Eyes on Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin went from being almost completely unknown outside of her home state of Alaska to wildly popular hockey mom to national laughingstock in less than a month. Tonight, all eyes will be on her in what is sure to be the most watched vice presidential debate in history.

A new ABC-Washington Post poll, featured on the front page of today’s edition of the latter, shows her to be in trouble.

Six in 10 voters see her as lacking the experience to be an effective president, and a third are now less likely to vote for McCain because of her. A month ago, voters rated Palin as highly as they did McCain or his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, but after weeks of intensive coverage and several perceived missteps, the shine has diminished.

[…]

About half of all voters said they were uncomfortable with the idea of McCain taking office at age 72, and 85 percent of those voters said Palin does not have the requisite experience to be president.

The 60 percent who now see Palin as insufficiently experienced to step into the presidency is steeply higher than in a Post-ABC poll after her nomination early last month. Democrats and Republicans alike are now more apt to doubt her qualifications, but the biggest shift has come among independents. In early September, independents offered a divided verdict on Palin’s experience; now they take the negative view by about 2 to 1. Nearly two-thirds of both independent men and women in the new poll said Palin has insufficient experience to run the White House.

Obama was able for the first time to crack the 50 percent mark, albeit barely, on whether he has the experience to be president following Friday’s presidential debate, and the question is one of Palin’s central challenges as she prepares to face Biden in prime time before a national television audience.

More than two-thirds of voters in the Pew poll said they plan to watch the debate, far more than said they were going to turn on the vice presidential debate four years ago. The expectations are that Biden, a six-term senator, will win: Voters by a 19-point margin think he will prove to be the better debater.

As I’ve noted before, she comes in to the debate with such ridiculously low expectations that simply not looking like she has no clue will probably constitute a win.

Dave Schuler asked, as OTB Radio was going off the air last night, whether this will be closer to a James Stockdale situation or a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” moment. My guess is neither. Palin is no Stockdale. While she lacks that great man’s decades of national service, she’s far more experienced in a political forum. She’s lousy answering reporters’ questions but one doesn’t get to be governor without being able to make a good showing in a debate. At the same time, Biden will be exceedingly reluctant to come across as a bully, so I’d be surprised, indeed, if he gets off a memorable Zinger.

Unless she completely falls apart, then, we’re much more likely to see a repeat of last Friday’s first presidential debate: A rather bland affair where neither embarrasses themselves nor says anything particularly memorable.

Unlike that debate, though, a “tie” goes to Palin because Biden is expected to blow her doors off. Like that debate, though, unless the Republican wins big, the Democrat wins the night by protecting the lead and running out the clock.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    All of which negates the likelyhood of Biden simply being Biden, and rolling out a few incredible stupidities.

  2. Floyd says:

    Friday’s headlines from the AP..
    [AKA, North American TASS]…

    Stupid Palin Losses Debate!

    “The Daily Show” and SNL decide the election!

  3. rodney dill says:

    Even Biden’s probably too smart for this (snicker), but I would love to see a ‘You’re no Hillary Clinton’ comment. Palin didn’t have to marry her way into her position.

  4. anjin-san says:

    SNL decide the election

    Considering that there is really almost no difference between reality Sarah and lampoon Sarah, I am a little surprised this line of whine continues…

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Claiming Palin is a “national laughingstock” is wrong. Just because the juvenile writers and cast of SNL think of her in those terms doesn’t mean the rest of the country does. It disappoints me OTB gets so much of it’s national mood info from comedy shows like SNL, The Daily Show, and Colbert. The mood of the country is much more serious than these shows can imagine.

  6. Anderson says:

    I hope she’s asked whether she believes in a constitutional right to privacy.

    The woman is, by her own admission, too liberal for George W. Bush to’ve nominated her for the Supreme Court.

    Is there any s— that the GOP base will not eat?

  7. anjin-san says:

    Claiming Palin is a “national laughingstock” is wrong.

    Look at the numbers. She is a liability to the McCain campaign. That is the bottom line.

    The mood of the country is much more serious than these shows can imagine.

    Yes, and those serious people are a bit but off when Palin is unable to answer a question like “what newspapers and magazines do you read?” My nephew is in the 4th grade and he can handle that one…

  8. Michael says:

    Claiming Palin is a “national laughingstock” is wrong. Just because the juvenile writers and cast of SNL think of her in those terms doesn’t mean the rest of the country does.

    While I agree with the writers and cast generally being juvenile, the Palin skits were about the least juvenile ones I’ve seen from them in quite some time.

    The mood of the country is much more serious than these shows can imagine.

    That’s not been my first-hand experience. I have liberal, conservative, and Ron Paul Libertarian friends, and they all think she’s a laughing stock.

  9. Sarah Palin went from being almost completely unknown outside of her home state of Alaska to wildly popular hockey mom to national laughingstock in less than a month.

    This tells all you need to know about how diseased and corrupt our body politic has become. Opponents must be humiliated and destroyed. Dissenting opinions wil not be tolerated.

    Meanwhile Senator Obama gets to act like Chauncey Gardner and be elected president. Too bad Paddy Chayefsky isn’t around to received the plaudits his prophecy merits.

  10. Anderson says:

    I was just talking to a Republican friend who thinks Palin’s an idiot, but cheerfully concedes she would vote against Obama even if McCain’s running mate were a chimpanzee.

    Where Palin hurts is with the relatively few undecided voters, and those are likely the sort who will be tuning in tonight. I expect either a draw or a Palin “win” given her low expectations — she can’t possibly get up there & dribble out parts of speech like she did with Couric.

  11. purplenat says:

    Sarah Rhyme

    Simple Sarah me a Senator
    Along Alaskan coast;
    Says Simple Sarah to the Senator,
    “I want your vice-prez post.”
    Says the Senator to Simple Sarah,
    “How do you view the world,”
    Says Simple Sarah to the Senator,
    “Indeed I own a globe.”

  12. Bithead says:

    The bar is set fairly high for Sarah Palin, because of the two she’s the one with the functioning braincells. All Biden has to do is keep from saying something stupid. Given his history, that’s a tall order. Even if he does manage to push his size 12 down his own throat, he still has an advantage, based on that reocrd. People EXPECT Biden to be foundationally stupid.

  13. Frankly, I think it insults “movement conservatives” and “Christian conservatives” to include Palin in their ranks. And I am surprised by how many rock-rib conservatives remain willing to embrace her.

    She is an anti-elitist populist whose actual knowledge of policy issues is shockingly limited. She doesn’t understand any of the issues she’s addressed. It is irrelevant how she gets her knowledge. She can get it from the NYT, by osmosis from being close to Russia, or directly from God… none of that would matter if it was working.

    What matters is that she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand what the “right to privacy” entails. She doesn’t know what the Constitutional debate over it is. There are many people on this board and elsewhere with whom one could have a productive debate over cases like Griswold, but you can’t have that debate with Palin because she’s never heard of it.

    We can have a productive debate over whether it makes sense to provoke or embarrass Pakistan by announcing raids into their territory, but you can’t have that debate with Palin because she thinks the issue is with “showing our cards to the terrorists.”

    There is nothing there there. Some conservatives like her just because she infuriates liberals. Well, you know what guys, grow the hell up. This isn’t a game. You want to claim to put “country first”? Great, then you can’t go around defending an idiotic amateur just because she gets under the skin of your opponents. She doesn’t even understand your issues, and as a result you can’t be confident that, God forbid, she’s ever in charge that she will actually pursue them.

    If she doesn’t know any court cases other than Roe, then why do you think she’ll be able to make a good choice in picking Roberts/Alito-style justices. She doesn’t even know, conceptually, what a Roberts/Alito-style justice is.

  14. Opponents must be humiliated and destroyed. Dissenting opinions wil not be tolerated.

    Charles,

    The problem with that assessment is that we don’t really know Palin’s positions. Further, her position haven’t been ridiculed, indeed it has been her lack of ability to articulate any issues that have been ridiculed.

    And, in case you haven’t noticed, there are plenty of people who will vote for McCain who nonetheless find Palin to be problematic (to put it kindly).

  15. Triumph says:

    She’s lousy answering reporters’ questions but one doesn’t get to be governor without being able to make a good showing in a debate.

    Lets get real about what it takes to “get elected governor.” In a state like New York, California, Illinois, Florida your statement makes sense–they all have huge media markets, millions of voters, and national profiles.

    Alaska has half as many voters as Detroit. In fact, Kwame Kilpatrick got more votes in his last mayoral run than Palin did in the entire state of Alaska.

  16. Anderson says:

    What Triumph said, plus the observation that, in a debate amongst Alaskan gubernatorial candidates, you’re not exactly facing the second coming of William Pitt the Younger, Gladstone, or Disraeli, if you know what I mean.

    Being a perky, energetic small-town mayor with a presentable face was probably enough to win a debate in Alaska, not to mention an election.

  17. anjin-san says:

    The bar is set fairly high for Sarah Palin, because of the two she’s the one with the functioning braincells.

    Yup. That explains why she was unable to name a single news publication she reads.

  18. Triumph says:

    Being a perky, energetic small-town mayor with a presentable face was probably enough to win a debate in Alaska, not to mention an election.

    Speaking of perky an presentable, if McCain were smart, he’d drop Palin and pick up Kilpatrick!

    He’s got executive experience!!! It might be hard to campaign from jail, though…

  19. Michael says:

    It might be hard to campaign from jail, though…

    At least he’d have a ready-made excuse for not talking to the press.

  20. rodney dill says:

    Frankly, I think it insults “liberal moonbats” and “social activist” to include Obama in their ranks. And I am surprised by how many slack-jaw liberals remain willing to embrace him.

    he is an elitist Solipsist whose actual knowledge of policy issues is shockingly limited. He doesn’t understand any of the issues he’s addressed. It is irrelevant how he gets his knowledge. He can get it from the Koran, by osmosis from being close to Chicago, or directly from Allah… none of that matters it isn’t working.

    What matters is that he doesn’t get it. he doesn’t understand what the “right to life” entails. He doesn’t know what the Constitutional debate over it is. There are many people on this board and elsewhere with whom one could have a productive debate over cases, but you can’t have that debate with Obama, he’s to busy promising hope and change.

    We can have a productive debate over whether it makes sense to provoke or embarrass Pakistan by announcing raids into their territory, but you can’t have that debate with Obama because he thinks its OK to “show our cards to the terrorists.”

    There is nothing there there. Some liberals like him just because he infuriates conservatives. Well, you know what guys, grow the hell up. This isn’t a game. You want to claim to put “country first”? Great, then you can’t go around defending an idiotic amateur just because he gets under the skin of your opponents. He doesn’t even understand your issues, and as a result you can’t be confident that, Allah forbid, he’s ever in charge that he will actually pursue them.

    If he doesn’t know any plans other then ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’, then why do you think he’ll be able to make a good choice in picking Ginsberg/
    Stevens-style justices. He doesn’t even know, how many states there are.

    (omigosh, its Deja spew)

  21. PD Shaw says:

    I’ll be rooting for her, though I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for yet. I can’t imagine anything that could happen tonight that would affect my vote. This country did fine for almost two-hundred years with the office of VP occassionaly occupied by someone named “Vacant,” sometimes for close to four years at a sitting. Unless Biden or Palin fall below the standard set by “Vacant,” I will vote the top of the ticket.

  22. hcantrall says:

    You all are so funny with your spiteful and snarky comments… McCain isn’t going to win this election, your rockstar will win so you can calm down. Stock up on hamburger helper (I think they even have an organic variety now) and get your bikes tuned up because you’ll be paying even more of your hard earned income to the government. It’s ok though, they’ve proven how much smarter they are than the rest of us. They will spend it wisely.

  23. Rodney… you need to get out more.

    Believe it or not… it is possible to make your own judgments about things.

    There is a lot to disagree with in Obama’s views… but the notion that he either doesn’t express them clearly or in detail is simply untrue.

    Obama may be dead wrong, but he isn’t an ignorant simp like Palin.

  24. Dr. Taylor, I am amongst those who have no love for Senator McCain, but cannot fathom voting for Senator Obama. What I was referring to was the degraded state of political disourse wherein Dr. Joyner labels Governor Palin as a national laughingstock because of a concerted effort to make her one. She is a functioning, and by all accounts successful governor. Doesn’t this count for something? Meanwhile Senator Biden can say the most ridiculous things and get by with it because it’s just “Joe being Joe.” Mind you, I don’t think it is sexism, it is Obamaism. Senator Clinton was pilloried for falsely claiming her plane was shot at. Senator Biden gets a pass for falsely claiming his helicoptor was shot at and forced down. What changed?

    It is undoubtedly true that we don’t know a lot about Governor Palin, but has Big Media really been interested in eliciting responses to intelligent questions or have they been more interested in seeking to humiliate her? The emphasis on push polls to declare her unqualified are just the most obvious example today.

  25. And right on cue Bernard calls Governor Palin an ignorant simp. Amazing.

  26. sam says:

    [H]e is an elitist Solipsist…Obama, he’s too busy promising hope and change…

    Hmmm. Promising to whom, given that he’s a solipsist? On the other hand, that’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve seen posted here.

  27. anjin-san says:

    Opponents must be humiliated and destroyed.

    The only one who has humiliated Palin is Palin. She allowed herself to be put into a situation she is clearly not equipped to handle. It is not Tina Fey’s fault that Palin cannot answer simple questions. In fact, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a genuine Palin answer and the satire of one…

  28. Fence says:

    Remember the debate in 2000 when Bush started rolling off the names of all sorts of foreign leaders? (Actually, I can’t, but I remember the SNK skit portraying it). I suspect a fair amount of that from Palin. She’ll be walking in with several lines and names to drop that will sound impressive, and may well impress voters into thinking she knows more than people expected her to (and more than she actually does). So she could come off OK tonight, unless she gives a preprogrammed answer to a question that wasn’t asked instead of the one she was supposed to give.

    It is pretty depressing though. The McCain debate team probably could feed her a line that “Senator Obama just doesn’t understand that you can’t just let Snarkoslovakia control the world supply of balrogs,” and she’d probably happily spit the line right out. Forget whether she could find Sudan on a map, could she find Kansas? If the phone rang at 3am, would she go outside thinking it was the fire alarm?

    OK, OK, that’s not fair (well, the phone call, I’d really bet she can’t find Sudan), but it was fun. I guess that’s what laughingstock means.

  29. anjin-san says:

    He can get it from the Koran, by osmosis from being close to Chicago, or directly from Allah… none of that matters it isn’t working.

    Rodney must have seen today’s numbers from Ohio. The raw desperation is evident.

    it isn’t working.

    When applied to your lame attempt to cast Obama as a Muslim, that is quite correct.

  30. rodney dill says:

    Bernard, since your only intent was for you to insult “movement conservatives” and “Christian conservatives”; and to denigrate Palin with your rant, all I did was Deja Spew your phrasing around to show how empty your arguments really were.

    …and I easily formed my own judgement that you are just trying to say Palin lies enough until people believe they are true.

    …as for Obumble’s skillz…

    …and I guess he just forgot he’s voted on at least one bill dealing with the nation’s most contaminated nuclear-waste site. Good thing he didn’t say he’d get right back to you.

  31. No no no. You missed my point completely Rodney… sort of like Palin might.

    I was arguing that both movement conservatives and Christian conservatives are serious people with a consistent worldview, deep convictions, and a wealth of detailed policy preferences grounded in a knowledge of real issues.

    I was further arguing that Palin isn’t qualified to be considered either a Christian conservative or a movement conservative because she does not have a consistent worldview, deep convictions, or a wealth of detailed policy preferences grounded in a knowledge of real issues.

    Do you see my point? If she were a real movement conservative or Christian conservative, I might disagree with her, but respect her. But she has done nothing to justify that respect.

    Look, have you seen Biden answer the same Supreme Court question as Palin? You might disagree with Biden — I do, I think his defense of Roe is fundamentally wrongheaded — but at least he was making a coherent argument. She can’t do that!

  32. Jonathan Adler would disagree with your perception of coherence in Senator Biden’s response. It is in fact remarkably incoherent, especially for someone who claims to be a constitutional scholar.

  33. Bithead says:

    The only one who has humiliated Palin is Palin. She allowed herself to be put into a situation she is clearly not equipped to handle

    Let’s try a little Anijin standard…

    Yu keep saying that, yet I see no proof of the statement. Just anicdotals and options. Got fact?

  34. rodney dill says:

    If Palin’s presence insults you, Bernard, just say so. If you with to insult her or attack her, as you just did again.

    You missed my point completely Rodney… sort of like Palin might.

    Go ahead, but expect like treatment for Obumble.

    …but the ploy of trying to say that something insults or embarrasses a group of individuals is just a tact used by some (usually not from said group) to push their own agenda.

  35. Adler is able to write an extended critique of Biden’s position — and I happen to largely agree with Adler here — precisely be there is a position to be critiqued.

    Look, I give up. You think Palin is as knowledgeable about policy and legal issues as Biden? Or even in the same ballpark. Fine. Whatever. Good luck with that.

  36. sam says:

    @ Charles:

    It is undoubtedly true that we don’t know a lot about Governor Palin, but has Big Media really been interested in eliciting responses to intelligent questions or have they been more interested in seeking to humiliate her?

    Charles, really. You’ve seen those interviews. Do you really think that the questioners were trying to trip her up? The questions were innocuous, I’d say, directed to someone with aspirations for the vice-presidency.

    The emphasis on push polls to declare her unqualified are just the most obvious example today.

    I haven’t heard about any push polls directed at Palin. Can you give me a pointer?

  37. spencer says:

    The problem is not the press.

    Rather the problem is the stupid comments the Republican party comes up with to support her.

    They say she has foreign policy experience because Alaska is next to Russia.

    There is a joke going around that she has financial experience because she lives net to a bank.

    One is a serious argument by professional republican operatives. One is a joke.

    Can you tell the difference?

    Again, the problem is not the press or her, the problem is the republican party.

  38. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin, the difference between you and a brick are infinitesimal, yet you continue to post here. My question for detractors is what is it you have accomplished that outshines Sarah Palin. Anjin,????Anderson, Sam????? Any of you a Mayor??? Ever run for office or just run you mouth? A wise person would likely wait until the debate is over before deciding who the winner is. One must decide which is more important. Debating style or character. Palin has character, Biden is a character.

  39. sam says:

    [W]hat is it you have accomplished that outshines Sarah Palin.

    I returned all my library books ontime.

  40. anjin-san says:

    III-

    What have you accomplished that outshines Obama? Extended ranting?

  41. anjin-san says:

    I see no proof of the statement. Just anicdotals and options. Got fact?

    She accepted the VP nomination, yet she cannon handle softball questions from lightweight journalists. Has she held even a single press conference?

  42. rodney dill says:

    Anjin, the difference between you and a brick are infinitesimal,

    I’m just appalled at that statement Zelsdorf. You are entirely on the wrong track. A brick is far more useful.

  43. anjin-san says:

    Wow! The attack gerbils are really riled up. Guess they heard McCain folded in Michigan…

  44. anjin-san says:

    How many times can she say “Mavrick” in one evening? Is James Garner getting royalties?

  45. camille says:

    I wish she was a Democrat….

  46. Bill Anglea says:

    Some derogatory statements about Barack Obama “might” be true. However, it doesn’t erase the fact that Senator McCain demonstrated a huge failure in judgment and a complete failure of the process surrounding his decision to raise Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. From the day he pronounced that decision, John McCain he has continued to demonstrate one failure in judgment after another.

    Despite Sarah Palin’s apparent abilities as a political operative in Alaska (which has almost zero correlation to the lower 48 states in anything political, economical or otherwise) and her apparent abilities as an administrator of a small Alaskan town, then as governor of the State of Alaska, she has clearly and consistently demonstrated that she is out of her league as a candidate for Vice President, and is in no way, shape or form prepared to actually fulfill the role of Vice President. She is intellectually challenged on the issues of critical urgency to this country and has shown that although she can deliver a canned, rehearsed speech in a controlled environment, she apparently is not capable of conversing with an average journalist or voter to engage in a coherent discussion of the current domestic, economic and foreign relation problems facing this country.

    Moreover, it is almost incomprehensible that John McCain would put her in a position where she would be one heart beat away from assuming the Presidency from a 72 year man who has a significant probability of being unable to fulfill even one 4 year term in office due to his current age, his current maladies and having had one initial case of the most deadly form of melanoma cancer, and three additional occurrences of lesser forms of melanoma (based on published actuarial tables and testimony from some of the foremost and prominent oncologists that have reviewed the limited medical information that John McCain has been made public).

    Sarah Palin is a wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic and positive person who would be an excellent cabinet member or as an operative in a staff position. However, she is embarrassingly ill prepared to take the 2nd highest office in this country, let alone the very high probability that she would be required to assume the office of the President within a first 4 year term.

    It was totally and completely irresponsible for John McCain to have put her and this country into this high risk gamble, based on a hope and a prayer that he would be able to “beat the odds” and survive 4 years in office as President.

    By the way, the statistical probability that John McCain would be unable to fulfill a second 4 year term if he were able to beat the odds and survive a first 4 year term, rises significantly. In other words, even if he were to beats the odds of making it through the first 4 years, he would have an even smaller chance of being able to fulfill a second term. That means there is an extremely high probability that SARAH PALIN WILL BECOME THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SOMETIME IN THE NEXT 8 YEARS IF THEY GET ELECTED AND TAKE OFFICE IN JANUARY 2009.

    In My Humble Opinion, this is not acceptable. No how, no way.

  47. rodney dill says:

    Here is a response to Bill Anglea’s drivel. Next time you can spare the disparaging remarks, as they are just as useful and thoughtful when turned around….

    Despite Barack Hussein Obama’s apparent abilities as a community organizer in Chicago he has clearly and consistently demonstrated that he is out of his league as a candidate for President, and is in no way, shape or form prepared to actually fulfill the role of President. He is intellectually challenged on the issues of critical urgency to this country and has shown that although he can deliver a teleprompted, canned, rehearsed speech in a controlled environment, He apparently is not capable of conversing without a teleprompter, with an average journalist or voter to engage in a coherent discussion of the current domestic, economic and foreign relation problems facing this country.

    Moreover, it is almost incomprehensible that the country would put him in a position where he would be the one heart beat of the Presidency, with lying Joe Biden as his potential replacement.

    Barack Hussein Obama a mildly enthusiastic, athletic, and progressive person who would be an excellent member of society or a volunteer at the YMCA. However, he is embarrassingly ill prepared to take the highest office in this country, given that he has already violated the Logan Act before he even has the office.

    It was totally and completely irresponsible for Barack Hussen Obama to have this country into this high risk gamble, based on a hope and change that he would be able to “beat the odds” and survive 4 years in office as President with just a teleprompter to prop up his inadequacy.

    By the way, the statistical probability that Barack Hussen Obama would be to adequately fulfill the duties of even a first term are low.

    In My Humble Opinion, this is not acceptable. No how, no way..

    Deja Spew all over again. (I did choose to ignore the age discrimination remarks against McCain, as the only correllary for Obama would be racial discrimination, and I’m not gonna go there.)

  48. movie fan says:

    it would be dangerous for the GOP to reschedule another VP debate… the more unscripted air time Palin gets, the more time people will have to realize that she couldn’t answer a question about any of the major issues if her life depended on it