I think Joe Biden just gave the greatest presidential campaign debate performance I have ever seen. He was absolutely commanding and absolutely convincing. But (and you'll have to read all the way down before I explain this) he gift-wrapped two big opportunities for the McCain campaign if the campaign is smart enough and tough enough to exploit them.
I thought Sarah Palin did about as well as she could. She wasn't bad. She wasn't great, by any means. But she was out of her league. Unfortunately, my opinion of her performance was HIGHER than that of my "test group." I watched with two women, both rather apolitical but both conservative, both of whom wanted her to do well, both in the mid-thirties to mid-forties age range. They thought she was absolutely godawful.
Young woman #1: "She's just not polished enough."
"ANSWER the question!"
and, at the end: "He smoked her. He smoked her. He smoked her."
Young woman #2: "She's just a calamity." and again at the end: "She was calamitous."
Matt Lewis responds, and I'll take on a few of his points.
He writes that, "here is where I think Philip misses it. His analogy of Bush and Palin is a false one. Unlike my criticisms of Bush, the criticism directed at Palin has had nothing to do with philosophical reasons. Instead, her unforgivable sin was in merely giving a few unimpressive interviews."
But that was precisely my point. If the criticism directed at Palin isn't philosophical, than how can it have any bearing on whether or not the person doing the criticizing is a true conservative?
Lewis also observes:
It seems to me that there are essentially three groups of people who have specific problems with Palin that has resulted in their resenting her. They are as follows:
Marc Ambinder gives Mike Huckabee a plausible shot at winning the Republican nomination in 2012, should Obama win this year. No chance. Although Huckabee defied expectations this year, at the end of the day, he was not able to expand his appeal beyond the evangelical base, and I don't see that changing much. His fiscal record is still atrocious and his national security views are erratic. He benefitted this year from coming out of nowhere and thus avoiding a lot of negative press until the very end, but this time around his record in Arkansas will get a lot more scrutiny. Also, it's hard to know who else would decide to run in four years and how that might shake up the race. This year, Huckabee was able to dominate among evangelicals because he was running in a heterodox field and none of his competitors were particularly appealing to that key constituency. But that would change if, say, Sarah Palin ran. She'd go back to Alaska after this election and get four more years of experience, and have time to study up on national and international issues and rack up more accomplishments.
Friend Quin, we are perhaps dealing with a mild case of semantics here. I say "philosophy, character and good old-fashioned common-sense judgment" and you say "the wisdom that comes from experience." I suspect the latter is nothing more than another way of saying the former. One man's wisdom that comes from experience is another man's common-sense judgment. Good judgment comes, as they say, from having had bad judgment -- aka experience, experience from which you learn. And certainly I believe to understand the conservative philosophy is to have "knowledge," something I would never denigrate. I think, though, that it is vastly unfair to think that Governor Palin should be able to adjust overnight to her newfound role. Quite demonstrably the roles in her famous ascent in Alaska were always a gradual step up the ladder -- PTA to council member to Mayor to State Energy & Gas Commission chair to Governor. Clearly in each instance she handled herself very, very well. Today is October 1 -- which means she has been in this new role for exactly a month and a couple days. There is no reason to think she will not adapt well -- very well -- as this continues.
Remember the controversy over whether Sarah Palin was, gasp, a Buchananite? Sean Scallon has an interesting article in the current issue of the American Conservative exploring how Jacksonian social conservatives migrated from the 1990s Buchanan Brigades to the Bush Leagues, even though they represent polar opposites in terms of foreign policy.