The VP Debate – Pre-Analysis

The train wreck we’ve all been waiting for is almost upon us: The Vice Presidential debate between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin. I suspect that this will be chock full of sound bites and late night comedy fodder.

Biden is loquacious and sometimes forgets to check the sentence out with his brain before the words come out of his mouth. It has made for some very interesting gaffes over the weeks – actually over his career.

Palin, on the other hand, is like a fish out of water. She has difficulty grasping foreign and domestic policy. She sometimes seems to lose her words in the middle of a sentence. And her body choreographs when she is running through the memorized talking points. (Hint: she leans forward and keep an eye on her left hand.)

It is suspected that the game John McCain played last week with suspending his campaign and trying to postpone last Friday’s first Presidential debate was actually a ploy to delay or cancel the vice presidential debate. After watching Palin’s interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, it is no wonder why they would want to cancel her debate.

Recently, McCain escorted Palin to an interview with Katie Couric. It was reminiscent of a parent – teacher conference with Palin playing the part of the student. McCain seemed visibly agitated in parts of the interview.

Palin is also currently locked away being prepped for this debate. I envision both My Fair Lady and Fast Times at Ridgemont High where Mr. Hand showed up at Spicoli’s house and the 2 discussed history. By George, Eliza Doolittle finally did ‘get it’ and Spicoli finally did make it to the dance.

Early predictions clearly suggest that Biden should mop the floor with her. It could be the most embarrassing debate ever. With expectations as low as they are, how could Palin actually not exceed them? And since Palin has been pretty much sheltered from the media and from the voters, this debate should have incredible viewership.

We’ve seen how she answers questions (actually she doesn’t answer questions) and how she responds in speeches so it is highly doubtful that she’ll come out and pummel Biden like Ivan Drago beat Apollo Creed like a rag doll in Rocky IV. (How’s that for an obscure movie reference. Drago after all was from the Soviet Union which Palin can see from her home.)

I have yet to see her answer with specifics. Which newspapers and magazines do you read? Name some specific policies. Name one Supreme Court decision other than Roe v Wade. Let me check and get back to ya.

Here are the keys to Biden winning the debate. There really aren’t many but he can not fall into any of these traps or he will be considered the loser.

Dick Cheney and John Edwards seated at the 2004 VP debate

Dick Cheney and John Edwards seated at the 2004 VP debate

He has to lean back.  Leaning forward creates the illusion that you are more aggressive and he must avoid that perception at all costs.  Remember the heat that Barack Obama received for simply standing tall while approaching Hillary Clinton in one of their debates?

{Here is how the Democrats seemingly try to shoot themselves in the foot.  In 2000 and 2004, the VP debates with Dick Cheney were held seated at a table.  This prevented Joe Lieberman and John Edwards from being able to be more aggressive in the debates – unless there were just afraid to challenge Darth Cheney.  In this debate, Biden would have been better off seated.  For some reason the Democrats were the ones who wanted this debate behind a lectern.}

Biden needs to keep to the point and stay brief in his answers. When he gets wordy is when he gets into trouble. I have confidence that Biden will be successful here because Obama needed to do the same thing and he was fantastic. He even nearly eliminated the “Uh’s”.

This debate will be similar to Friday’s debate where Biden and Palin should be able to address each other. Biden needs to make sure that he calmly asks her questions. If he gets overly aggressive with pointing out her mistakes or attacking Bush, Palin or McCain, he could come off as bullying. That means he shouldn’t point his finger at all.

Displaying passion and frustration are good but there is a fine line between these 2 emotions and anger. He can not be perceived as angry or he risks getting labeled the same way McCain did on Friday.

Biden should occasionally look over at Palin but focus mostly on the camera when he is speaking. He needs to talk to America and empathize with our situation. He does this very well but there will be more people watching him in this debate than at any other he has ever appeared in.

Most of all, he needs to be very careful. Biden has been in the U.S. Senate since January, 1973. There is a ton of votes in there that she can throw at him. Find a couple that contradict each other, maybe contradict Obama and he could get thrown. Find an obscure vote that is long out of memory and it could be game over. She is cramming for the debate right now and they are preparing questions that are designed to break Biden’s composure.

I’d love to be able to analyze Palin in the same way I have for Biden, but honestly, she doesn’t have the political experience, the debate experience or the intellectual ability to win on those skills. She will have to resort to a real game plan to create the illusion of a successful debate.

Palin will try to keep Biden on the defensive. She will attack Biden and Obama’s record through lies and distortions. If he remains on the defensive he could get frustrated and say something stupid that will immediately give Palin the debate. This will be nothing like any of the debates he attended for the Democratic Primaries.

She will continue to lie about her record. Will she mention that ‘bridge to nowhere’ lie again?

She will continue to use the same technique of staying on the talking points that Bush uses. Example: The economic bailout of the banks was necessary in order to bailout the banks to save the economy from the greedy banks and CEO’s on Wall Street which is bad for the economy. {It is annoying watching people speak in circles and she seems pretty skilled at doing this. How many times will she be able to rephrase the same talking point?}

She seems to like to talk in buzz words. I mean really likes buzz words to the point of repeating them through out a sentence or an answer. I wonder how many games of buzz word bingo will be going on Thursday night and how many of them will include taking a shot every time she says one.

Politicians at this level rarely lose a word they are looking for, especially after the sentence has begun. She has this knack. This is something that has happened to most people but you don’t expect it to happen to a vice presidential candidate.

It will be interesting to see if she gets thrown during this debate. Will she appear to lose her composure or appear agitated? She will be trying to get Biden to lose his temper but I wonder if it will backfire.

I’m sure everyone remembers the device that was protruding from George Bush’s back 4 years ago. I’m sure technology has improved. Biden’s team should verify that she isn’t wired. Then again, I can picture her saying ‘one second’ as a hand goes to her ear or worse saying ‘what’ or ‘can you repeat your answer, I mean question.’


Check out Bush's back
Check out Bush’s back

The bottom line is that the GOP needs Palin to survive the debate without looking foolish.  The only way for her to accomplish this will be to keep pressure on Biden so he remains on the defensive and unable to throw Palin.

Biden will have to be perfect for the entire debate. We all expect him to be confident and give a good debate so a slip-up will remain with Americans – not to mention immediately make it into a campaign ad. The best way to get Biden to slip is to try to get him to contradict Obama’s position.

On the other hand, if Palin has 1 or 2 good moments, Republicans may call the debate a victory for her.

Her only shot with independents and undecideds is to appear competent and somewhat knowledgeable.

Amazingly, it has only been 1 month since McCain introduced Palin to America. In that time, she catapulted McCain to a slight lead in the polls, many people fell in love with her and as quickly as they fell in, they are falling out again. Even conservative columnists have become disenchanted with Palin.

This debate will go a tremendous way in defining the McCain campaign for the next month. Will the she regain the McCain supporters who have called for her to step aside or will this debate cause more to jump ship?

I see this as the most interesting, most important and most defining debate of this election. Will it also be the most viewed?

Grab the popcorn, the bingo cards and the shot glasses.

I just hope Biden asks Palin if she’s ever found out what a Vice President does . . . every day.



One response to “The VP Debate – Pre-Analysis

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