Friday, October 03, 2008

Post-VP Debate Update (E-32)

The horror. The horror.

This might not have been the most painful hour and a half of television that I've ever endured, but let me tell you, brothers and sisters, it was close. Damn close. Mind you, neither of the two things I was really expecting happened. I was expecting Biden to put his foot so far in his mouth that he'd be crapping shoe leather. And I was expecting Palin to get so tongue-tied after a question she didn't understand that her head would explode. But the surreal non-answers she started giving towards the end were beginning to make my ears bleed.

And now, the numbers:

From Pollster:

DEM: 250 (+21)
REP: 163 (+/- 0)
Toss-Up: 125 (+/- 0)

[I am beginning to wonder about Pollster's totals...]

From Intrade:

DEM: 338, 66.4% chance to win (+27 EV, +10.6%)
REP: 200, 33.5% chance to win (-27 EV, -9.9%)

As an aside -- what the hell is up with Pollster? When I compare the week-to-week numbers, the total of gains and losses ought to be zero, since the total of REP+DEM+Toss-Up ought to be the total number of electoral votes available. This does not appear to be the case. What are those dudes smoking? (Or, I suppose, I'm failing miserably at arithmetic. It wouldn't be a huge surprise.)

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. First, let's look at Biden's performance. He was pretty dull for the most part, with a few flashes of passion in the last half. Clearly, he knows his stuff. But he doesn't bring much fire to the table. It's fortunate for him that he didn't have to. A more alert, more knowledgeable opponent could easily have folded his mushy delivery 'till it was all corners and made him cry. But most of the time, he at least looked like he was answering the moderator's questions. He's got the experience to evade an uncomfortable answer deftly, without being too blatant about it. It's a skill most politicians learn, eventually.

But not all of them do. I still don't know whose questions Palin was answering last night. It wasn't the moderator's questions. I'm pretty sure Biden wasn't slipping her questions of his own. So, who? The Count of Monte Cristo? The King of the Potato People? Scott Adams has used the phrase "paradigm shifting without a clutch" before, but I didn't know what it felt like until last night: GGRRRREEEAAAAWWWWWRRRKKK! Where the hell did that answer come from? And then, a moment of panic: Maybe she really is answering the question, and I've gone stone barking mad... Then Biden starts talking, and he dances close enough to the question that I know that I haven't gone completely nuts. Maybe she didn't like the question put to her. Maybe she didn't understand the question put to her. No matter: she'd charge full speed ahead with that wide-eyed stare and manic she-Dobbs grin, selecting a neocon Zen koan at random from her notes, hammering away until her time ran out. It's almost like it wasn't a real person up there, but a life-size Talking Veep Barbie. Go ahead, pull the string! You'll get an answer. Probably not the answer to the question you just asked, but by God you'll get an answer! Surprise your friends, amuse your enemies, start your next debate with a bang!

It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in politics, including the time Jerry Brown ran for President. Lloyd Bentsen once said, "If Jerry Brown is the answer, then it must be a damn peculiar question." Were he still alive, he might just owe Jerry Brown an apology. Governor Moonbeam? Meet Governor Barbie. The crazy baton has been passed to a new generation.

What John McCain must do: Beats the hell out of me. His campaign is in an inverted spin with all engines on fire. He's determined to ride this one out, though, so he'll probably go down swinging. But I think he's utterly screwed at this point.

What Barack Obama must do: From here on in, don't screw it up. Avoid unforced errors. Make no crucial mistakes in the two debates to come. Try to keep Biden from jamming his foot in his mouth. Aside from that, let McCain/Palin implode of its own accord.

The way to bet: Intrade's quoting 2-1 in Obama's favor, and I'd take that bet. I still wouldn't bet the mortgage on it, but it looks like safe money.

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