Saturday, September 27, 2008

The VP Candidate Matters - A Few More Post-Debate Thoughts

I'm putting up this video, not to rub it in or cheer for the Obama side, but to illustrate an important point. The Vice Presidential candidate is important, very important to modern campaigns. You need someone who can compliment the ticket and provide a second line of attack. For critical events like debates, you need your VP in front of the cameras, working offense, playing the attack dog, hitting hard.

The Presidential candidate is usually better off focusing on policy and the overall message of the campaign. Especially in 2008, I don't think Americans will be impressed by a President who goes around picking fights. We've had that for the past eight years. That's the job you leave to your VP. And that's what we saw Biden do last night on CNN.

And where is Sarah Palin, McCain's VP pick? She's missing, completely AWOL. She's supposed to be there on the tv, doing the same for McCain that Biden is doing for Obama. You need your number two to cover your back, escpecially in these crucial post-game moments when the narrative is being decided. We've seen all too well how the post-debate spin can completely change our final impressions of the debate. Remember Al Gore in 2000? John Kerry in 2004?

In this regard, the McCain side went to the debate with one hand tied behind its back. There's a glaring hole where their VP candidate should be, and Palin is nowhere to be found. Then we find out that she was at a bar, all the way in Philly. Not on tv, not giving spin, not making the case for McCain, not proving her bona-fides as the next Vice President.

Perhaps this explains why McCain was so contentious last night. He didn't have his backup quarterback to play the heavy, so that role was left only to him. And I think he suffered greatly as a result. This debate, which focused on foreign policy, was supposed to be his night. This was his home-team game. But he spent so much time playing attack dog against Obama, he spent the entire night looking cranky, ill-tempered and angry. McCain couldn't even look Obama in the eye or say one nice thing about him (note how generous Obama was towards McCain by comparison).

In a Presidential campaign, somebody has to be the street fighter. That role usually falls to the VP. But Palin didn't get to play; she was taken off the field by McCain. That speaks volumes about his judgement, and about his trust in her as a candidate. And given the terrible fallout from the CBS interview, Palin becomes smaller and smaller in the public eye.

And this woman is supposed to stand on a stage against Joe Biden on Thursday? I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that will even happen. The McCain campaign has no confidence in Palin and their behavior proves it. They desperately need something to intervene; either postpone or cancel the VP debate, or else...

Well, in McCain's worst-case scenario, there are two terrible options. Either let Palin give another Ralph Wiggum appearance against Biden on Thursday, or drop her from the ticket and face the wrath of the GOP's Christian conservatives. Either path leads to certain doom. At this point, I just can't see how John McCain can win this election.

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