The Real Palin Effect


Well, she did not crash and burn as many had expected. In a debate built up as a test of her qualifications and her capacity to serve as president should tragedy strike, Sarah Palin had to show she has a grasp of the issues and the ability to serve in the highest office in the land at a moment’s notice. It is obvious from listening to her answers and her exchanges that Governor Palin still has a long way to go. However, compared with the appalling interviews she did with Katie Couric last week, Palin did show the charm and likeability that got her supporters enthused about her candidacy in the first place.

Her opponent, Senator Joe Biden, went into this debate with a decided advantage. His experience and knowledge were beyond question, and if there was any doubt about his chances to win the debate, it had to do with attitude. Would he be condescending and patronizing, and consequently ramp up sympathy for Governor Palin? By all accounts, Biden had the best debate of his life. He looked presidential in stature and was reassuring should he have to act as president. When we compare the candidates, the “what if” factor undoubtedly favours Biden. In this regard — and the overnight polls seem to support it — Biden won the debate. Still, there was no knockout blow.

In the past month, articles and blogs have been weighing in on the Palin effect. Her choice at the Republican convention saved an event that had all the makings of a catastrophe. She energized the base by changing the channel and raising the volume. For a brief two weeks, the Palin effect transformed the presidential race in ways that had the McCain camp hoping it might be able to keep the presidency in the hands of a Republican. However, since those heady days, Palin has been literally shielded from the media. And when she has given interviews to respected journalists, her performance has been, quite frankly, pathetic. The kindest assessment is that her answers to journalists’ questions on key issues, such as the McCain record and the Supreme Court, were pure gibberish. Even respected conservative columnists and commentators like George Will and David Frum have questioned the decision to put her on the ticket. 

Now we come to the real Palin effect. The financial crisis has hit the United States’ economy in an alarming and disconcerting manner. Both McCain and Obama have failed to completely reassure the voting public. The bailout plan may be a viable option among the political class and much of the financial markets, but mainstream America remains skeptical. If the top of the ticket is losing ground, then one would hope that the running mate could make up some of those losses. Last night, we saw that while Sarah Palin did not fail in her performance, she still came across as a student who had crammed the night before the final exam and showed no depth of knowledge on some of the crucial issues. She did well on style, but clearly failed the test on content. As a result, we are now seeing the real Palin effect: She has failed to give the American public the reassurance it needs should McCain be elected as president.


The Real Palin Effect

  1. I think you are quite right about her performance- she seemed sincere and well-rehearsed, but avoided answering any of the questions.But then, that’s what a politician does, they spin things to their advantage. She was so much better last night than during the Couric interviews, that’s it almost like she was a different person. Biden was very impressive- so much so, that he seemed more ready to be President than Obama. But overall, the debate changed nothing. It was forgettable.And so, I think you have to give the victory to Palin. Just like the last debate, it was McCain who had to outclass Obama- which he failed to do and so Obama won by default. Last night- everyone expected Biden to humiliate Palin- he failed to do so and so Palin wins by default. Sorry Biden.

  2. “His experience and knowledge were beyond question”

    John P

    Would be nice if you ever looked into these things before you write sentences like that. Biden is a world class champion at talking b.s. while making himself look smart and coherent. If anybody actually bothered to look into his craptastic statements, he wouldn’t be seen as knowledgeable.

    Just a few examples from last night:

    Biden “We’ve spent less in Afghanistan in seven years than we spend in a month in Iraq.”

    Incorrect. The Americans have spent something like $170 billion in Afghanistan.


    Biden “When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.” Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.”

    WTF is he talking about? This is wrong in so many ways.


    Biden, last night: “Can I clarify this? This is simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.”

    Obama’s Website: “Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions”


    And his answer on Afghanistan was simply incomprehensible.

  3. “grasp of the issues”. Grasp of the cue cards.
    The same thing?

  4. JWl: At least Biden answered the questions. Most of Palin’s answers were unrelated monologues explaining how great a mayor she was and how Obama voted to raise taxes…( oddly, most of the bills she accused Obama of supporting MCain voted for as well….:)

  5. “Last night- everyone expected Biden to humiliate Palin- he failed to do so and so Palin wins by default. Sorry Biden.”

    LOL, are you kidding me? This isn’t a game of beating expectations.

    What you’re saying is like if my buddies and I played the Habs and lost 19-5, we really won, because no one expected us to score 5 goals in the first place.

    I think the American public is not quite so dumb as to be swayed by Palin’s down-home folksy dagnabbit talk – and that’s reflected in the polls. Most viewers thought Palin did better than they expected (not forgetting that she herself worked pretty darn hard to lower those expectations to below zero), but recognized, quite correctly, that Biden won the debate.

    More to the point, your idea that Biden should have humiliated Palin in order to be considered the winner is totally upside-down – in fact he had to take care not to appear patronising, which can’t be that easy when you’re debating a gal whose favourite paper is “all of them”.

    And also, Biden pointed out that presidential negotiations with Iran would involve Khamenei, and not Ahmadinejad. But wasn’t it cute how Sarah could memorize the name of a world leader? So cute that she had to repeat his name 4 times in 2 sentences.

  6. I agree overall but my fear is that Obama’s fight with Hillary for the candidacy and McCain’s campaign ads have effectively equated education and conventional wisdom with the failed policies of the Bush administration. He has channeled the backlash to the current admin’s shortcomings towards this concept of the elitist which unfortunately has become code word for anybody with an impressive and compelling CV.

    My fear is that the more qualified a candidate looks, the more doubt and fear voters will harbor about that candidate and may lead to snap judgments at the voting booth when the pressure of voting day comes around.

  7. “LOL, are you kidding me? This isn’t a game of beating expectations.”

    LOL, are you kidding me? Of course it is a game of beating expectations!

  8. ““LOL, are you kidding me? This isn’t a game of beating expectations.”

    LOL, are you kidding me? Of course it is a game of beating expectations!”

    Great! Palin managed to beat the hell out of expectations by not drooling all over herself. The fact that conservatives are crowing over that performance is touchingly pathetic, just like the entire McCain/Palin campaign.

  9. I just read on the CBC News site that she’s been found guilty of abuse of power in brother-in-law trooper case.

    Wonder what that will do to the Palin effect?

  10. correction: “guilty” is not the right word. The legislative committee found her to have abused her power.

  11. She’s abusing her power over crowds of crazies every day now.

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