My credentials must have gotten lost in the mail, so I won’t be in St. Louis for tonight’s Vice-presidential debate. Like millions of other Americans, I will be glued to my TV. For all the chatter about last Friday night’s debate, the ratings were lousy. Who schedules a debate for Friday night anyway, knowing it’s the lowest night for TV viewership?
As I did with the first debate, I will lay out a roadmap here for both candidates in terms of how they can win and how they should conduct themselves.
Joe Biden: He dwarfs Sarah Palin in experience, and he ought to just let it show. If I were Biden, I would address the TV camera and address the moderator, but I would avoid any direct debate with Palin. Why? Joe Biden has a habit of being long-winded. Mind you, he is a very smart man, particularly versed in foreign affairs, but he tends to read the "Encyclopedia Britannica" when he gives an answer. He needs to be much briefer, to just show that he knows what he’s talking about, and to show that he could step in as President at any moment. Biden also has a habit of talking down to people and even being condescending. He cannot take this tact with Palin, or he will be attacked for being sexist and patronizing. That’s why I say he should avoid directly debating with her. There were times in the 1984 debate between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro when VP Bush made that mistake, and he was hammered for it (although he still won). Critical Advice: Just take the high road!
Sarah Palin: The McCain campaign has put her in a very difficult spot. Had they unleashed her for a multitude of interviews following the nomination, this debate would not have the mystique that now surrounds it. A debate should never be a “do-or-die” night for any candidate. The fact is, Tina Fay is getting more airtime impersonating Palin than the candidate herself. That was a tactical blunder. That said, Palin can still shine tonight. How? She just needs to be herself and to be authentic. She needs to unleash the charm and story that has endeared her to so many at the Republican Convention and on the campaign trail. In terms of debating, she needs to greatly shorten her answers and to stay focused on the topic. In some of her limited press interviews, she has wandered all over the map when answering questions. It’s a sign of being overcoached by the campaign. She also needs to steer clear of attacking Obama and Biden as she did in her acceptance speech. Finally, she needs to show some expertise. She has it on energy policy and executive budgeting so she should use it to demonstrate that she is competent on these issues. Palin ought to talk about the price of groceries and gasoline, something every other working mom can relate to. Many male politicians haven’t a clue. Critical Advice: Be yourself, be authentic, and be brief in most answers!
Some have compared this to the 1988 debate between the very experienced Lloyd Bentsen and the relative newcomer Dan Quayle. Yes, Bentsen won the debate, but Quayle was elected Vice-president.
I will be scoring the debate tonight using the same Debate Scoring Sheet from Loyola Marymount University that I used in the first debate.
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