With Barack Obama gaining momentum, according to opinion polls, after his presidential performance in Friday’s debate, Thursday’s vice-presidential debate takes on even more importance for John McCain, who is quickly running out of wild stunts. (Or is he?) As we all know, Sarah Palin hasn’t exactly been knocking her interviews out of the park, so luckily for her, the bar has been set very low. This, however, may be her last chance to be taken seriously.
• James Fallows says expectations are so low that Palin “is very likely to do ‘surprisingly’ well against Joe Biden on October 2.” Odds are Palin will be able to competently handle at least one tough question, and “therefore show ‘improvement’ and beat the expectations game.” [Atlantic]
• Andrew Malcolm concurs, claiming that the Democrats “have so successfully mocked, derided and lowered expectations for Palin in Thursday night’s VP debate that if she doesn’t drool or speak in tongues, many millions still open to persuasion will be impressed.” This is what happened with George W. Bush in 2000. [Top of the Ticket/LAT]
• Mike Lupica thinks “the bar for Palin will be set lower than the curb in St. Louis.” [NYDN]
• William Kristol writes that the debate is “important” for McCain because Palin could either “reflect badly on his judgment,” or she could “be a shot in the arm for his campaign,” depending on her performance. Palin “has to dispatch quickly any queries about herself, and confidently assert that of course she’s qualified to be vice president.” She should also spend most of her time “telling the American people something that makes them less well disposed to Obama.” [NYT]
• Joe Klein thinks what Kristol really means is that “he wants Steve Schmidt to stop scripting substantive answers to questions for Palin, since that’s clearly beyond her capabilities, and resume scripting attacks for her.” [Swampland/Time]
• Monica Langley reports that the campaign has devoted its “top officials,” including Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt, to Palin’s debate prep “amid concern and grumbling from Republicans,” especially after Palin “flubbed quasi-mock debates in New York City and Philadelphia” recently. The plan is to “‘undo’ much of her previous debate prep, which has resulted in occasional ‘rote’ responses, one adviser said.” [WSJ]
• Howard Fineman asks Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and Republican strategist Stuart Stevens for advice for Biden and Palin, respectively. Shrum suggests Biden hone his answers, practice comebacks for Palin’s expected lines, and focus his attacks on McCain. Stevens says Palin should use Biden’s words against Obama, avoid snark, and “focus on her personality.” [Newsweek]
• Byron York claims the “enormous amount of pressure on Palin” in the debate is a result of a flawed rollout strategy in which Palin was subject to network interviews instead of more friendly venues like conservative talk radio. [Corner/National Review]
• Chuck Todd and friends say that there will be “a good chunk of folks watching the debate who are downright rooting for her to not to screw up.” But if she flops, “not only will Palin start becoming a true liability for the McCain campaign, she’ll damage her ability to transition into a national leader.” [First Read/MSNBC]
• Jake Tapper, meanwhile, writes that some Democrats on the Hill are “worried that despite his far greater breadth of knowledge, Biden could whiff it” because of his propensity to be verbose, commit gaffes, or appear “reckless or insensitive.” [Political Punch/ABC News]
Related: Heilemann: Obama Passes Presidential Test; McCain Fails Manners
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.