In the eyes of the media, Sarah Palin has a high bar to clear in tonight’s debate, she has to be perfect.Â As Jim Geraghty put it, “any mistake she makes will be trumpeted as a sign she’s not ready for office.“Â Her gaffes will be rebroadcast ad nauseum on the major networks and replayed ad nauseum et ad infinitum on MSNBC.
In the eyes of the American people, however, if she comes across well, able to relate to their concerns and in command of a basic knowledge of most issues facing the nation, she’ll help reverse the recent doubt people have expressed about her competence.Â That won’t stop the media from its rush to belittle her nor stop their search of Alaska dumpsters for any evidence of her imperfection.Â They’ll continue to examine her lunch receipts and question her acceptance of floral gifts.
I highly doubt there’s any network or talking head (save FoxNews) will call her the winner of this debate even if she performs masterfully, even after they have overwhelmingly lowered our expectations about her ability.
Personally, I don’t know what to expect tonight.Â I have seen clips of her performance in Alaska gubernatorial debates in 2006 — where she addressed questions nimbly, thoghtfully.Â Her command of the specifics of certain legislation was not as great as that of her various rivals, but her understanding of the impact of certain policies on the lives of the fellow citizens was impressive.Â She was able to talk in terms the average viewer (as opposed to pundit or policy wonk) could understand.
I hope we see that Sarah Palin tonight.Â Such a woman might not impress the pundits, but she will relate to the American people.Â And she’ll help restore confidence in John McCain’s choice of her as his running mate while calling into question his campaign’s decision to, by and large, hide her from the media these past few weeks.