Thursday, October 02, 2008
The VP Debate. Will it Even Matter?
The most likely outcome of tonight's debate between Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden is this: we get to see Tina Fey again this weekend.
But will the debate have any impact at all on the race to the White House? Probably not.
People vote the top of the ticket, not the bottom. And at the top of the ticket, the Obama momentum is growing. A CBS-New York Times poll finds Obama's favorable rating at 48%—the highest its been in this poll. By contrast, McCain's mavericky teflon has worn perilously thin; his unfavorable rating now reaching 42%—the highest in the poll's history.
Following a tiny bounce after the Republican Convention, Sen. McCain's national polling has been trending down, while Sen. Obama's is trending up. (shown pollster.com's trend chart of last month's composite poll of polls).
Even more dramatic is the recent movement in electoral votes. In state polling since the Wall St. meltdown and the first presidential debate, Obama seems headed for a solid win in electoral votes. CNN - Time - Opinion Research polling shows Obama ahead among likely voters in Florida (+4), Minnesota (+11), Misouri (+1), Nevada (+4), and Virginia (+9). Obama's lead among registered voters is even wider. (Given all the evidence we've seen of expanded voter interest and participation, the likely-voter forumula probably understates Obama's margin) NBC's Chuck Todd, this morning, called it a "tipping point."
It's Character, not Issues.
The McCain strategy has always been to make the campaign about driving up Obama's negatives to make him appear too risky. Celebrity. Speechmaker. Unready. Unpatriotic. (The underground campaign pushes even further: crypto-Muslim, anti-American, anti-Israel, socialist—a guy whose secret agenda is set by some shady, dangerous friends and influences. Not to mention his wacky peacher—and mention him as often as possible.)
But the last two weeks have reduced that campaign to a Groucho line: "who are you gonna believe—me or your own eyes?"
Our own eyes have given us a close look at "no drama Obama," responding to crisis with measured strength, steady communication, and deft humor. The same crisis showed us a clear view of McCain lurching from one position to another, one stunt to another, one outburst to another.
What's the Best She Can Do?
Against all this, what's the very best outcome Sarah Palin can deliver to her ticket? The bloom is definitely off the rose. Gov. Palin has quickly moved from an argument for McCain's strategic genius, to another example of his impulsively dangerous decision-making. She's in a very deep hole right now. Clearly unprepared for national office. Uninterested in national issues. Unable to name a newspaper. Unaware that supporting a constitutional right of privacy undermines the anti-Roe v. Wade position.
Some pundits are telling us is that the bar is now so low for Palin, that a charm offensive, a few canned zingers, plus some folksy soccer-mommery will make her a winner. Nonsense. She can't charm her way out of the devastating self-portrait she painted under the gentle prodding of Katie Couric. No way. Laughing stock today. Laughing stock tonight. Laughing stock tomorrow.
Some pundits are telling us that verbose and gaffe-prone Biden will say something dumb and talk too much. Who cares? He's immune. That's who he is. That's who he was. That's who he will be. Everyone already knows that. But he's also solid, informed, and active in both international and domestic issues and in tune with the Chris Matthews "regular American" voter. That won't change either.
Mickeleh's Take: Let say there's a perfect storm tonight. They let Palin be Palin and she's the best Palin she can possibly be. Joe Biden is at his worst. And Gwen Ifill is discredited as pro-Obama. Does anyone expect significant votes to shift toward the erratic, impulsive, resentful, disdainful, and less-than-honest McCain-Palin ticket? I don't. All their base is belong to them. The rest of us are voting for change.