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.