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Friday, October 3, 2008

Biden Brings Substance, Palin Beauty Pageant Parlor Tricks

In an hour and a half of debate, both Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin claimed there were “fundamental” differences between themselves and their respective presidential tickets. But above all, one primary disparity between the two stood out: the former was about substance, the latter was not.

From the very beginning, Palin countered the Delaware Senator’s substantive points with the same kind of tactics utilized by beauty pageant competitors everywhere- winks, smiles, “darn rights,” “don’t ya knows,” and “heck of a lottas”. She stepped out onto the stage and kicked off her performance with a cheap parlor trick, leaving her microphone on while she made a cute comment: “Hey, can I call ya Joe?” And it’s no wonder she resorts to that kind of approach. It’s the same thing that made her a successful pageant girl herself back in the 1980s.

In contrast, Biden fired back with numbers, historical references, and relevant comments that went to the heart of moderator Gwen Ifill’s questions. His presentation was informative. He came across as a guy who was confident enough in the facts and figures that he brought to the table. Compare that to Palin, who cloaked half answers and two-bit policies with defense mechanisms that more closely resembled the stereotypical sleezeball politician with the perfect smile, meticulously manicured hair, and impeccable business suit. The only difference is that this time, the politician was a woman.

Sarah Palin demonstrated her purpose on the Republican ticket last night perhaps more than she has in the five weeks since she was chosen as McCain’s running mate: in short, she’s a feel good story. She’s heavy on folksy euphemisms and lame jokes. But that’s not enough anymore. George Bush loved to tell heart-warming stories and crowd-pleasing jokes, but even he laid out some semblance of prospective policy and concrete planning when he was running. And if eight years later, we can look back and realize that the feel good stories simply weren’t enough, you can be sure that Sarah Palin falls far short of what the “Joe-Six-Pack” really needs: the resources to fill his gas tank, to keep the lights on in his home, and to keep his family fed, sheltered, educated, and covered with health care if they get sick or injured.

The simple fact is that debates are never about winning or losing. Depending on whom you ask, the most lopsided debate will look like a stunning victory by partisans on either side. Debates are about highlighting differences between candidates and letting voters choose for themselves. And last night’s showdown delivered in that regard. But unfortunately for Palin, American voters tend to apply a little more than beauty pageant judges.

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Palin Web Ad Cites Thumbs Up From 'Famous Person'

By Garance Franke-Ruta and Krissah Williams Thompson
Is the McCain campaign still nursing a grudge against Peggy Noonan?

This morning on news sites, the McCain campaign appeared to be in need of a copy editor when it attributed a positive review of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's debate performance last night to a "Famous Person."

The ad -- viewable here -- couples a photo of a smiling Palin with the quote: "She killed. It was her evening. She was the star. -- Famous Person (10/2/08)"

Now, there was one famous person who actually did say that about the GOP vice presidential candidate, though it's not clear from the campaign's ad: Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Who also previously has ripped into Palin's selection as the vice presidential nominee.

"She killed. It was her evening. She was the star," said Noonan last night on NBC, according to a round-up of debate reactions posted online by the McCain campaign this morning.

"Is she not a famous person?" asked McCain campaign blogger Michael Goldfarb, queried about the ad. Given an assent that Noonan is, indeed, famous (or, at least, famous in political circles), he continued, "OK, so what's the problem?"

"If there's no factual inaccuracy, I don't know what the problem is," he added.

Still, someone must have seen the potential for confusion, especially in light of the microcontroversy that broke out when the McCain campaign prematurely declared victory in the Arizona senator's debate with Barack Obama in a pre-debate Web ad released late last month.

A later version of the Palin ad replaced the "Famous Person" attribution with Noonan's name.

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McCain Could Be Forced Out Of Pennsylvania Too, Union Chief Says

Democrats cheered on Wednesday when news broke that John McCain's campaign was abandoning Michigan, pulling down its ads and sending staffers to other states.

Almost immediately, an organization called Progress Michigan let loose with a taunt, demanding that McCain keep pouring resources into the state in order to explain to voters his "support for outsourcing" and the "failed economic policies" of the Bush administration.

Many speculated that McCain would now turn his focus to Pennsylvania. But United Steelworkers International president Leo Gerard tells the Huffington Post that the state could soon go the way of Michigan.

"We're seeing -- from the several hundred of our people working every day, hand-billing at the plants -- the last two weeks have really been breaking Senator Obama's way," Gerard said over the phone from his office in Pittsburgh. "In particular, I think folks are sort of not taking John McCain as serious as they were, when they see his vacillation last week. 'I'm not going to debate. I'm going to whip House Republicans into shape. Not."

Gerard also said that the bailout bill is hurting McCain disproportionately. "There's lot of anger at this bailout bill, even though people recognize we have to do something. But our people think it's directly tied to Bush, and they tie bush to McCain. That's the sense of what I've heard back from our people, that the race is breaking out."

A sharp turn toward Obama hasn't been reflected in the polling thus far. However, even as McCain surrogates have repeatedly touted Pennsylvania as a possible pick-up state, Obama has maintained a stubborn lead over the last six months, according to Pollster.com's best-fit line of all surveys taken.

All told, the consistency of Obama's lead in Pennsylvania is not too terribly different from the steady advantage that compelled McCain to bail out of Michigan this week.

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Obama is protecting that lead. He delivered a stemwinder to a crowd in Abington, Pennsylvania Friday morning. After referencing the latest dismal job loss numbers, Obama told the crowd that the Republicans have had their turn running the economy. "We've tried it their way. It hasn't worked. And it won't work now. But let me tell you what will work," he said, before ticking off his standard economic litany.

Watch:

Gerard, for one, also thinks Obama is becoming more comfortable talking about kitchen table issues. His union originally endorsed John Edwards during the primary season. But even after their favored candidate abandoned the race, Gerard recounts that it took the union members several weeks to reach a consensus on Obama -- perhaps, as was widely guessed at the time, because his cool demeanor was not resonating with the white working class audience.

Now, though, Gerard says that perception is turning. "Obama seems to have become more passionate. He seems to be angry about what's gone on. I watched part of his speech [on Thursday]. That kind of speech could go to standing ovations in a union hall. If he can keep that up level of intensity, what I call constructive anger about what the system has done, I think that he'll connect. ... And McCain will wind up campaigning just in Georgia before it's over."

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Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin

By Belinda Luscombe

A woman holds an anti Sarah Palin sign.
A woman holds an anti Sarah Palin sign.

Some polls are suggesting that after gaining an initial bump, McCain's campaign is being hobbled by Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy. The voters who are deserting her fastest, some of whom are even calling on her to withdraw, are mostly women.

Ah, women, the consistently, tragically underestimated constituency. What the Democrats learned during the primaries and the Republicans might now be finding out the hard way, I learned at my very academic, well-regarded all-girls high school: that is never to discount the ability of women to open a robust, committed, well-thought-out vat of hatred for another girl.

Women are weapons-grade haters. Hillary Clinton knows it. Palin knows it too. When women get their hate on, they don't just dislike, or find disfavor with, or sort of not really appreciate. They loathe — deeply, richly, sustainingly. I do not say this to disparage my gender; women also love in more or less the same way.

When men disagree, the steps to resolution are reasonably clear and unsophisticated. Acts of physical violence are visited upon one another's person or property, and the whole thing blows over. Women? Nu-unh. We savor the discord. We draw it out. We share our contempt with our friends, like a useful stock tip, or really good salsa. And then we all go hate together: a mutually encouraging group activity for when the book group gets quiet.

The hatred women have for Sarah Palin, and others had for Hillary before her, is not necessarily about politics. Anybody can run the numbers on how many people Palin's pro-life, pro-gun, socially conservative policies will seduce and how many they will alienate. Rather, the test that the McCain campaign failed to put her through was the Abbotsleigh Ladies College test. (Named after my high school. Go, green and gold!). It's a simple three-point pass-fail exam: Will the other girls like her?

Here's why Palin doesn't make the grade:

1. She's too pretty. This is very bad news. At school, pretty girls tend to be liked only by other pretty girls. The rest of us, whose looks hover somewhere around underwhelming, resent them and whisper archly of their "unearned attention." So, if everyone calls your candidate "hot," you're in a whole mess of trouble. If the Pakistani head-of-state more or less hits on her, well, yes, she'll get a sympathy vote, but we're in Dukakis-in-the-tank territory. It's an admiration vaporizer. (Of course a candidate can't be too ugly, or it will scare the men, who are clearly shallow as a gender.)

2. She's too confident. This also bodes ill. Women have self-esteem issues. But they also have other-women's-esteem issues. As almost any woman — from the head of the Budgerigar Breeders association to Queen Elizabeth — can attest, it's almost impossible to get confidence right. Too timid and you're a pushover. Too self-aggrandizing and you're a bad word unless it's about a dog, or Project Runway's Kenley. Or Michelle, my best friend until 9th grade, after she won that debating prize and got cocky.

3. She could embarrass us. History is not on Palin's side. Every time a woman gets a plum job, be she Hewlett-Packard's ex-boss, Carly Fiorina, or CBS's Katie Couric, there's always that whispery fear that people will think she got the job just because she's a woman. So if things don't go well — and a couple of YouTube clips have suggested that they're certainly not going well for Palin — women are the first to turn on her for making it harder for the rest of us to louse up at work.

The fact of the matter is once a female decides it's over with another female, it's like an end-stage marriage. No matter how seemingly benign, every attribute becomes an affront: the hair, the voice, the husband, the moose-shooting, the glasses, the big family, the making rape victims pay for their own rape test kits.

I know, I know. With all this extra baggage a female candidate has to bear, the chances of finding a woman whom other women won't hate seem skinnier than last year's jeans. But don't despair, if all else fails, we could just do what we always do and just vote in some guy. It's worked so well for us in the past.

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Palin On Fox News: Couric Annoyed Me

Appearing on a friendlier news outlet, Gov. Sarah Palin said she was "annoyed" with the way Katie Couric handled their interview and complained that the CBS Evening News host failed to give her the opportunity to take a proverbial axe to Barack Obama.

In a portion of her sit-down with Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron, Palin claimed that Couric's questions -- which produced a series of staggeringly embarrassing responses -- put her in a lose-lose position.

"The Sarah Palin in those interviews was a little bit annoyed," she said. "It's like, man, no matter what you say, you are going to get clobbered. If you choose to answer a question, you are going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to try to pivot and go to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that too."

For the record, Couric asked her, among other things, what type of news sources she turns to for information, which Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with, why Alaska's proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience, her opinion of the bailout package for Wall Street, and where she thought Vice President Dick Cheney erred. Which one of those questions was designed to trip her up (as opposed to, say, give viewers a better sense of her character and views) is tough to ascertain.

Later in her interview with Cameron, Palin offered a sense of what she thinks would have been a fairer set of questions. Unsurprisingly, they all would have provided her the opportunity to rail against Obama.

"In those Katie Couric interviews, I did feel that there were lot of things that she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are represented in our ticket. I wanted to talk about Barack Obama increasing taxes, which would lead to killing jobs. I wanted to talk about his proposal to increase government spending by another trillion dollars. Some of his comments that he's made about the war, that I think may, in my world, disqualify someone from consideration as the next commander in chief. Some of the comments that he has made about Afghanistan -- what we are doing there, supposedly just air raiding villages and killing civilians. That's reckless. I want to talk about things like that. So I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that's also an indication of being outside the Washington elite, outside of the media elite also. I just wanted to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for."

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Palin Gets McCain Stance on Homeowner Protections Wrong

ABC News' Teddy Davis Reports:

Sarah Palin got her facts wrong in Thursday's debate with Joe Biden when discussing where John McCain stands on new protections for homeowners facing foreclosures.

The Alaska governor incorrectly made it sound like McCain supports giving bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite mortgage payment terms on first homes.

He doesn't.

The McCain campaign confirms to ABC News that Palin misstated McCain's position.

"No, that is what is called the cramdowns, which is so objectionable that Obama didn't even want it jammed into the stabilization bill," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers when asked if McCain supports giving bankruptcy judges the power to re-adjust the interest rate and principal to help people stay in their homes.

Palin's mistake came when the debate's moderator asked her if Biden was right in thinking that she and McCain oppose giving bankruptcy judges this new power.

"[W]e should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to re-adjust not just the interest rate you're paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the principal that you owe," said Biden. "That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by keeping it from going under.

"But John McCain, as I understand it," he continued, "I'm not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor don't support that. There are ways to help people now. And there -- ways that we're offering are not being supported by -- by the Bush administration nor do I believe by John McCain and Governor Palin."

"Governor Palin, is that so?" asked PBS' Gwen Ifill.

"That is not so," said Palin, "but because that's just a quick answer."

The Alaska governor then quickly changed the subject to energy.

ACORN, a liberal group which advocates on behalf of low- and moderate-income people, seized on Palin's seeming endorsement of the Obama-Biden position and is now trying to use them to pressure McCain to change his official position.

"Sarah was just being Sarah," ACORN's Charles Jackson told ABC News. "It's clear from the transcript that she supported the provision that Senator Biden brought up. We'll see if McCain's handlers will allow her to continue to hold that position tomorrow."

ACORN would like the Republican presidential nominee to change his position but the McCain campaign has already made it clear that is not going to happen.

While giving bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite mortgage terms would keep more Americans in their homes, opponents of the idea worry that it could scare investors away from wanting to securitize mortgages for fear that their steady payment schedule could be disrupted by a bankruptcy judge.

"A better approach would reflect the HOME Plan which John McCain proposed in April, which would have allowed credit worthy mortgage holders to rework their troubled mortgages," said Rogers, the McCain spokesman. "A component of the FHA insured proposal included a work-out formula that provided the homeowner with a 10 percent equity stake."

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McCain Lost the VP Debate Too

Sarah Palin has experience being a runner-up -- which will come in handy in November. Tonight she barely kept up. In advance, the commenteriat almost unanimously agreed on a false measure of this debate. Judging by "expectation" meant that pundits could conceivably award a faux victory if she was half-coherent and modestly informed after a cram session in Arizona. But voters apply an absolute standard, not a low water mark of expectations: With America facing two wars and economic disaster, Americans ask if a candidate is up to the job.

By any rational assessment, Palin wasn't tonight -- and hasn't been any time she's not reading a teleprompter. President Palin-- the nuclear button, recession, the health care crisis, global warming (which she doesn't believe in, as she believes in creationism) -- well, it simply doesn't compute. A part in Fargo, yes -- that office in the West Wing, no.

Everybody wondered how Palin would do. At least as important, or more, was that Joe Biden did a superb job. He deftly stopped Palin from distorting Obama's views. He won the tax cut argument-- Democrats usually don't. He won the health care argument; Palin just gave up. She wouldn't -- couldn't -- answer the questions; she wanted to talk about energy, which she's supposed to know something about, but she even lost on that . Often she didn't know or couldn't say what McCain's policy is. And on foreign policy, she must have been staring out the window when she sat down with Henry Kissinger. She "loves" Israel but can't discuss mideast realities in one inch depth. She can't even articulate basic conditions for the use of nuclear weapons.

Palin relied on topline phrases and had little command of facts. Why, she even memorized the name of the President of Iran. But it was mostly blah, blah, blah. At the end, the Obama-Biden ticket is far ahead on the big issues -- and Palin's a parrot repeating memorized phrases, not a plausible vice-president. Biden called her on it every time.

The last two Democratic VP nominees fell short in their debates; Lieberman was routed and never even fought back. Biden did the job for Democrats while Palin sounded like Kozinski's Chance the Gardener mouthing empty phrases. In successive sentences she said "there you go again" and "doggone." She talked about ordinary people; Biden eloquently showed he actually cares about the middle class. She was essentially phony and tin-eared after Biden spoke emotionally about his family -- and about raising his sons as a single father after their mother was killed and they almost died in an auto accident -- she spouted pol-talk cliches. He has a real emotional IQ; she sounds like an Ozzie and Harriett script (a reference which shows my age -- and a phony folksiness that reveals her inauthentic authenticity).

Today McCain pulled out of Michigan; the economic news worsened. The electoral map is smaller; the economy is smaller; and the odds on McCain are longer and longer. The press probably will give Palin credit for not falling down on stage. She couldn't deal with many of the questions directly or most of the facts, so she bloviated according to plan. She winked at us; the voters won't wink back at her. Pat Buchanan thinks she won. I think people still have a bullshit factor-- and that means she survived even as she met the low expectations she's created. McCain gained nothing; he was the loser -- in the first presidential debate, and the vice-presidential one.

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Palin Gets Afghanistan Facts, Strategy Dead Wrong

Sarah Palin gets wrong both the commanding general in Afghanistan's name and position.

Watch:

The commanding general in Afghanistan didn't merely state that Surge tactics won't work! He also said that tribal involvement in the COIN strategy wouldn't work either! Absolutely right on infrastructure in Afghanistan though! Know what they really need in Afghanistan to enhance security? ROADS.

Palin thinks our commander in Afghanistan is someone named "McClellan." It is, I believe, McKiernan. And Palin is DEAD WRONG. He absolutely said that tribal involvement in Afghanistan COIN strategy would not work.

McKiernan: "I do think there's a role for traditional tribal authorities and tribal structure in Afghanistan, in the rural areas especially, to play in a community-based sense of security, of connection with the government, and of environmental considerations. But I think that has to be led, that tribal engagement, it has to be led by the Afghan government. I specifically tell my chain of command in ISAF [International Security Assistance Force, the name for NATO's mission in Afghanistan] that I don't want the military to be engaging the tribes to do that. It has to be through the Afghan government to do that. But of course, there's danger in that. There's always, "Is this particular tribe, is it being reached out to for all the right reasons?" That has to be watched very closely."

McKiernan: "First of all, please don't think that I'm saying there's no room for tribal engagement in Afghanistan, because I think it's very necessary. But I think it's much more complex environment of tribal linkages, and intertribal complexity than there is in Iraq. It's not as simple as taking the Sunni Awakening and doing the Pashtun Awakening in Afghanistan. It's much more complex than that."

UPDATE: Ilan Goldenberg sums up the foreign policy portion of the debate:

1. Palin mispronounced our commander in Afghanistan, Dave McKiernan's name and also claimed that he supported the idea of using the Iraq surge as a model for Afghanistan even though just yesterday he said he did not.


2. In response to a question on Iran and Pakistan Palin answered by starting to talk about Iraq. Similar to McCain's obsession on Iraq with complete neglect for all other national security priorities.

3. Palin promised that the Middle East peace process would be a top priority for a McCain administration. But McCain's own advisors last week said that it wouldn't.

4. Palin was unable to distinguish any specific difference between Bush and McCain on any foreign policy issues. Joe Biden made that point very clearly.

5. Sarah Palin seems to rely quite heavily on her notes and on a very limited set of talking points. She has been dodging questions all night long.

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Debate poll says Biden won, Palin beat expectations

(CNN) -- A national poll of people who watched the vice presidential debate Thursday night suggests that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden won, but also says Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations.

Poll respondents give Sen. Joe Biden the edge over Gov. Sarah Palin in ability to express views.

Poll respondents give Sen. Joe Biden the edge over Gov. Sarah Palin in ability to express views.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said 51 percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.

But respondents said the folksy Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent. Seventy percent said Biden was more of a typical politician.

Both candidates exceeded expectations -- 84 percent of the people polled said Palin did a better job than they expected, while 64 percent said Biden also exceeded expectations.

How Palin would perform had been a major issue for the Alaska governor, who had some well-publicized fumbles during interviews with CBS' Katie Couric leading up to the debate.

Respondents thought Biden was better at expressing his views, giving him 52 percent to Palin's 36 percent.iReport.com: Tell us who you think did best

On the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87 percent of those polled said Biden is qualified and 42 percent said Palin is qualified.

The candidates sparred over which team would be the better agent of change, and Biden came out on top of that debate, with 53 percent of those polled giving the nod to the Delaware senator while 42 percent said Palin was more likely to bring change.

Respondents overwhelmingly said moderator Gwen Ifill was fair during the vice presidential debate, repudiating critics who said that Ifill, of PBS, would be biased because she is writing a book that includes Biden's running mate, Sen. Barack Obama.

Ninety-five percent of those polled said Ifill was fair.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Obama was selected as a winner over Republican Sen. John McCain in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll on the September 26 presidential debate.

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Ex-Bush Officials: Biden Won The Debate

The consensus from the debate seems to be that while Sarah Palin exceeded the exceedingly low expectations set for her, Joe Biden won the night. The word comes from former members of the Bush administration and even John McCain's former press secretary.

Torie Clarke, who worked with McCain back in Arizona and with the Bush Administration's Department of Defense, had the following remarks on ABC:

"I'm so surprised at what we are talking about before and after the debate. Before the debate the speculation was all on Sarah Palin, how well can she do, can she answer the tough questions? Nobody was paying attention to Joe Biden. I think Joe Biden had his best night tonight. He came with one mission, and that was to go after John McCain, and he did it, backed up by facts. I think he did a better job tonight of tying McCain to the Bush administration than Obama did last week.

Matthew Dowd, who worked for George Bush's communications team while in the White House, followed Clarke and he too agreed that the Delaware Democrat took the evening.

"I think, you know, I agree with her on this. I think Sarah Palin did reasonably well. The death spiral she has been on for the last week, she survived. She's lived another day. She did well. But I think, when the polls come out in the next two, three days, Joe Biden won this debate."

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Joe's Tears: the Political Power of Paternal Love

Joe Biden did more for the equality of the sexes with his honest display of paternal emotion during the vice presidential debate than Sarah Palin's presence on the executive ticket has or will ever do.

Biden visibly teared up when he rebutted the idea that "just because I am a man" he didn't understand what it was like to wonder whether or not a child would "make it" in recovering from a life-threatening medical situation. At the time, he was likely recalling the tragic automobile accident that killed his wife and daughter and severely injured his two sons. It was an authentic, moving and powerful moment. It was, in fact, the strongest expression of real paternal love we have seen from a public official in recent memory and maybe ever.

By bringing that reality to a national political stage, Biden demonstrated that -- for all of us, not just feminists -- the personal is political, that women alone do not have the sole responsibility for caring about the future of our children and that the concern of fathers is a largely untapped pool of political energy. In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama paved the way for this when he talked about fighting for equal pay for equal work because he wants "my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons" -- and said this while looking with protective ferocity straight into the camera. He has continued this message on the campaign trail with great impact.

Political equality for women will not come from the minimization or idealization of motherhood -- but rather from recognizing fatherhood as a significant factor in our culture and politics.

Thank you, Joe, for bringing us to the next level and keeping it real.

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Poll: Palin Less Popular with Women Voters Than with Men

By Massimo Calabresi

Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 29

As Sarah Palin braces for her vice-presidential debate tonight with Joe Biden, a new TIME poll shows the Alaska Governor is surprisingly unpopular among likely women voters.

Overall, Palin is viewed favorably by 47% of likely voters and unfavorably by 40%. But her numbers are worse among women than men: 45% of all women surveyed have a negative opinion of Palin, compared to 42% who view her positively. Fifty-two percent of men have a favorable opinion, while 35% are in the unfavorable camp.

Those numbers do not compare well with those of her direct competitor in the general election, Joe Biden. Among women, the Democratic candidate for vice president is viewed positively by 51% and negatively by 27%. Biden has an overall favorable to unfavorable split of 50%-31%, while McCain's is 54%-38% and Obama's rests at an enviable is 60%-33%.

Palin's unpopularity with women may prove a drag on the ticket with the very constituency she initially inspired. Obama now leads McCain by 17 points among likely female voters, 55%-38%. Just after the Republican convention, a TIME poll had the two candidates virtually tied among women, 48% for Obama and 47% for McCain.

The poll of 1,133 likely voters was conducted Sept. 26-29 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Palin has perhaps her best opportunity of the campaign to reverse her slide tonight. A strong showing could convince women that she represents a historic opportunity to break the political glass ceiling. And expectations for her performance couldn't be much lower; after her unsteady performance in interviews with Katie Couric (including an apparent inability to name any Supreme Court cases other than Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with), Palin could go a long way to restoring her credibility with a strong showing in an unstructured format.

Biden and the Democrats, meanwhile, will continue to try and exploit Palin's troubles with voters — especially women. In his own interview with Couric, Biden responded to the same question about disagreements with the Supreme Court by targeting a key issue for women: domestic violence.

Biden, who for years chaired the Senate Judiciary committee, went on at length about his authorship of the Violence Against Women Act and how the Court had ruled against him on a particular provision. Expect to see more of that tonight at the debates.

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VP Debate: McCain's Big Gamble Comes Up Snake Eyes

I watched the vice presidential debate in a ballroom at the Four Seasons hotel in Aviara, just north of San Diego, along with a couple of hundred women attending Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit -- a receptive audience, you would think, for a debate featuring a woman who might become the most powerful in the land. It was an ideologically mixed crowd, including representatives of ExxonMobil, a major sponsor of the conference.

If the reaction of the Republican women in the room is any indication, it was not a very good night for Sarah Palin. The only noises heard during the debate were groans when Palin turned her folksiness meter up to 11 (which was often), and applause when Joe Biden delivered his best moments of the night: making personal his understanding of the plight of single parents sitting around their kitchen tables, looking for help; and his impassioned pushback on Palin's endless description of John McCain as "a maverick."

The loudest ovation of the night -- at least in that ballroom (granted, not the most representative-of-America crowd) -- came when Biden said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous VP in history.

After watching this debate, I am convinced that if the country somehow has a collective mental meltdown and elects Sarah Palin, she will be even more dangerous than Cheney. Not only does she want more power for herself than the Constitution grants -- or than Cheney took for himself -- but she is so obviously not equipped to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it takes your breath away that McCain picked her. He claims to be putting his country first, but the debate proved beyond any doubt that he has actually chosen to put his country on the betting line and roll the dice. And they've come up snake eyes.

Friday morning, Meg Whitman, the co-chair of McCain's campaign, will be on a panel with Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair, discussing the campaign. After the debate, I asked Whitman what she thought of Palin's performance. "Good enough," she said.

But good enough for what, exactly? After Thursday night, the only thing Palin proved herself good enough for is starring in her own reality show.

Watching Biden and Palin on the same stage was like watching a tennis champion walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon only to find himself facing an over-eager amateur from the local high school. Or as Pat Mitchell told me, "Biden was taking part in a vice presidential debate; Palin was taking part in a junior high debate."

Here's how Esther Dyson put it: "It's pretty clear that Biden spent decades getting ready for this debate, learning from experience; Palin spent a couple of weeks, learning from handlers and speech coaches."

The only subject on which Palin displayed superior knowledge was when she corrected Biden on the proper delivery of "Drill, baby, drill!" Christie Hefner thought Palin's sex-tinged twist on the chant should be appropriated for a commercial. Perhaps for Viagra.

Other than that, Palin's grasp fluctuated between wafer thin and skin deep. The moment that most drove me to want to send her a book on Greek gods and heroes was her head-scratching response to the question about her Achilles heel. She apparently didn't know what that meant since she spent her allotted time listing all of her attributes as opposed to her most glaring weakness.

Ann Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andme, told me: "I was dying to hear something -- anything! -- from Palin that wasn't pre-rehearsed."

Throughout the entire 90-minute debate, Palin came across as an over-wound windup doll, sporting a pasted-on-smile expression that never varied, except when she winked. Which she did repeatedly -- and pathetically. It was the folksiest appearance since Hee-Haw went off the air.

"The home-spun homilies have to go," Martha Stewart told me. "And, oh my god, words do have ending consonants."

In the greatest disconnect of the evening, Palin repeatedly went to the Reagan well, offering up such Gipper classics as "there you go again" and that "shining city on the hill." But, really, during a week in which John McCain hopped on board Bush's $700 billion bailout, did Palin not see how incongruous it was to insist that government isn't the solution, it's the problem? And declare that all we need to get this country back on track is for the government to get out of our way? Isn't that what got us where we are today? Or had she been so busy cramming for the debate she didn't have time to read one of the so-many-she-can't-name-one newspapers she reads?

Joe Biden's only insincere moment was when he told her: "Governor, it was a pleasure to meet you."

A better exit line would have been: "Governor, it's a pleasure to think that, God willing, in 33 days, you'll be back where you belong -- shootin' moose and takin' on those big oil companies in Alaska."

My patience with Palin is waving the white flag of surrender.

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