The polls coming in over the weekend are showing a bump for Obama coming out of the debate last week. He has drawn closer in Florida and Ohio and seems to be solidifying some of the previously "lean democrat" states. This is good news, as the debates in 2000 and 2004 proved to be poisonous to the Democrats.
My prediction for Thursday - Palin wins the debate.
I know that this is not a popular opinion to carry among Democrats and maybe not even the prevailing wind. That being said, Biden has a tall order on Thursday.
Biden has eons of experience in the Senate and in politics in general. That means he is expected to be far more polished and professional than Palin. In addition, he has to come off as statesmanlike, not combative or petty at all. If he is seen as beating up on Palin, or as casual at all, it will be a loss.
I think back to Bentsen v. Quayle as the best comparison. Bentsen's line won the night and he carried himself as the far more senior statesman that night. McCain had the same opportunity last week, but came off as whiny and condescending with the number of times he referred to Obama as not knowing anything, not being experienced and being naive. His attacks had some merit to them, but were easily dismissed by the public who simply do not agree that Obama isn't smart.
This election is about change and in the Palin/Biden matchup, Palin represents change. In addition, the expectations of her performance are so low that there is very little way she cannot meet them.
Most importantly, however, is that it is all about audience. Palin's purpose is to do two things. First, get evangelical voters back into the McCain fold. Second, peel off even 5% of women. I expect Palin to come off as a right wing hockey mom, a role that is easy for her to fill. She will adopt a tone that will attempt to make her seem just like every mother and woman who is raising kids and trying to put food on the table. I expect her to dismiss questions that she doesn't know the answers to by shifting the conversation over to home spun issues that she can answer. There will be no more "I can see Russia from my house" type comments. She will be incredibly well coached on 4 or 5 different subjects and all of her answers will shift back to those. If she can stay on that message the polls after the debate will show a shift back to McCain among key constituencies.
Joe Biden must bring the gravitas to the ticket that he was hired to bring. He must use his skills as a debater to eviscerate her while coming off as a nice guy. He must blunt the attacks that are likely to come from the pit-bull with lipstick not by attacking back but by parrying them off and staying on topic, and he must not say anything dumb that can become the talking point the 5 minutes after.
Good luck Joe. We are counting on ya.
(Crossposted at bearsleft.com)