That’s Not Quite How It Works

Ruben Navarrette, barely able to keep from tripping over himself because Palin did so well last night, comes up with a rather ridiculous conclusion for the vice presidential debate.

Because it was a tie, Palin wins.

He also clames that we Democrats got hustled; but if you’ve been reading my posts running up to this debate, you would know that I’ve long been bracing myself for Palin to not drool when she got up on stage.  Consider me un-stunned that I was right.

But I want to take issue with this idea that because it was a tie, Palin won.  Of course I don’t think it was a tie, but I’ll admit that that is a biased opinion.

The problem with Navarrette’s assumption, though, is that it fails to take into context the state of the race, but instead grades Palin against the easiest possible scale that could be found; her own horrendous performance in the Katie Couric interviews.

The fact of the matter is that had the race been a dead heat and the expectations not been set quite so low, and had Biden not also performed well enough for most snap polls to clearly given him the win, then maybe you could say that a tie goes to the loser.  But none of these things are true, and every single one influences who a tie gets awarded to.

For instance, yes, Palin beat the expectations, but as I pointed out in an earlier post, a lot of folks don’t believe she beat Biden.  Biden was clearly seen as more capable of being the Vice President, and he was clearly seen as being more capable of taking over in the worst case scenario.

This speaks to just how low the expectations were set for Palin.  I believe, especially in the post Bush era, that expectations do not get set in a vacuum.  The personal expectations for Palin were set incredibly low, but they were also likely set so low that they did not meet what most voters would call the basic threshold of qualification to be vice president.  In other words, there was another, much less discussed, bar for Palin to clear.  Not throwing up on herself on stage may have been beating expectations, but there is still quite a bit of doubt among voters regarding whether she has the technical knowledge to serve as Vice President.

But the most significant thing to discuss here is the fact that the McCain team is behind in the polls by a significant margin and falling fast.  If the two tickets were dead even in the polls, than you could make a case that the tie went to the person who beat out low expectations, but that’s not the case.

With barely more than a month left to go, the McCain campaign is running out of time and options to turn the trajectory of the race around, and in this context, because Sarah Palin didn’t perform well enough to significantly alter the momentum of the race this must be counted as a missed opportunity.

No, I’m going to agree with some of the analysis I heard coming out of the first presidential debate; if the debate is a tie, the tie goes to who’s ahead.  In this case, that continues to be the Obama/Biden ticket.

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