Will Exceeding Expectations Be Enough?

A Washington Post-ABC News poll just released provides more data to confirm a picture that has been taking shape now for sometime; Sarah Palin is becoming a drag on the ticket.  In all respects this would be bad news for the McCain ticket with the one curious exception of tonight’s vice-presidential debate.

With expectations lower for her than for any other vice presidential candidate perhaps since Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin would be entering tonight’s event at an advantage.  Or would she?

One thing that must not be discounted is the post game coverage from the spin doctors and the press.  I think for them, their coverage will be aggressively indiscriminate; that’s to say that expectations were low for Palin, she didn’t start drooling, and therefore she gets the overall win.

But the question that isn’t being asked often enough is exactly where are the expectations being set low for Palin?  Debate performance isn’t exactly a one or a zero; it’s not a win or a loss.  There are nuances and categories, style and substance.

No one denies that Sarah Palin has a style about her, nor that she can be charming, and often times disarmingly so.  That is her greatest political strength, and despite the fumbling in the Katie Couric interviews, I don’t think a whole lot of Americans down that Palin can take any question and flip it into something that she can answer and do so in such a way that can get the viewing audience on her side.

I think the big question mark with Sarah Palin is the substance; the knowledge.  People know Palin can give a speech.  What they don’t know is if she is actually knowledgeable on the major issues of the day, or if she has the ability to think her way through complex problems.  These are the major questions brought up in the Couric and Gibson interviews.  Not that she can or can’t deliver a sound bite or retreat to talking points, but instead that she can be conversant, and even authoritative on things like the economy and national security.

Tonight, I have no doubt in my mind that Palin can give solid ten word answers.  The question I have and what I think most Americans will have is what are the next ten words, and the ten words after that?

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