29 September 2008

The one that really matters? - Previewing the Palin-Biden debate

It’s the debate that could possibly do more to shape the outcome of November’s presidential election than any other event and it will involve neither Barack Obama nor John McCain. Next week’s Vice-Presidential debate will put Sarah Palin to her toughest test yet, against the experienced Joe Biden. It’s extremely important for both candidates, with Sarah Palin looking to gain credibility and Biden trying to make up for a gaffe-strewn week.

Fortunately for Governor Palin the Republican’s have got their wishes for the format of the debate granted, with one that contains few chances for free-flowing arguments which would favour Biden. Instead it will be in a more rigid design that allows pre-prepared monologues to be used in almost its entirety. Veteran broadcaster Gwen Ifill will be moderating the debate and will be weary not to be accused of softballing the candidates, in particular Governor Palin.
Despite many predictions of a massive Biden victory it seems many political commentators are underrating Sarah Palin. She managed to debate very convincingly to help win the role of Governor of Alaska and has a kind of folksy charm that worked for George W.Bush, an ability to connect with ordinary people (with the emphasis on ‘Hockey Moms’). However this is not Alaska, this is America and she must perform to avoid appearing out of her depth. This is without question stepping up a league.

Although Biden is expected to win the debate handily he must also conquer some questions around his candidacy. An week of errors has seen him conflict with Senator Obama on the issue of an advert attacking McCain for not being able to use a PC, as well as comments about President Franklin Roosevelt appearing on TV to the nation after the Wall Street Crash, when he was not even President yet. Avoiding his trademark reputation for talking too much is something that must be addressed if he is too appear cool under the pressure of the sharp media glare that will be on him during the debate. Furthermore Biden could also potentially be susceptible to the ‘beating up on the girl’ accusations used by the Clinton Camp in the primary season.

This will undoubtedly be one of the most closely watched Vice-Presidential debates ever, as the role of VP has become more and more important whilst Gore and Cheney held it. After the relatively quiet Obama-McCain exchange on Friday this will be a night where people will hope for some fireworks, something both candidate wish to avoid.

By Chris Tarquini

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