As I'm sure is the case with many of you, I am anxiously awaiting the debates. Not just the three Presidential debates, but clearly I am anxious about the Vice Presidential debate, particularly given Palin's less than stellar interview with ABC last night.
So, I decided to go and find out when these debates were going to be held so I could be sure to be home. I read through the news release from November 2007 and was extremely encouraged to see one of the changes that was made to the format, a change that could significantly impact the VP debate, a change that in hindsight (given the Palin pick) may have the McCain camp scrambling to have it rescinded.
In case you hadn't read it in full, here is the link and I will discuss the change I am talking about below the fold...
Here is the relevant portion (emphasis mine):
In each debate except the town meeting format, the candidates will be seated at a table with the moderator.
Kirk and Fahrenkopf introduced two format features different from CPD formats of the past. The first change will be incorporated in the first and third presidential debates as well as the vice-presidential debate.
Each of those debates will be divided into 8 ten-minute issue segments; the moderator will introduce each segment with an issue on which each candidate will comment, after which the moderator will facilitate further discussion of the issue, including direct exchange between the candidates, for the balance of that segment. Time will be reserved for closing statements by each of the candidates in each debate.
Kirk and Fahrenkopf noted that this change is aimed at increasing the educational value of the general election debates. "Our mission is to promote voter education. The public deserves to hear and see the candidates offer and defend their positions on the critical issues facing our country in the most thoughtful and in-depth manner that television time constraints will allow. Loosening the constraints within the ninety minutes debate will allow for more serious examination of complicated questions. This change will also open the possibility of the moderator inviting candidates to question each other. We want voters to benefit from as full an explanation of a topic as possible, and we feel certain that the candidates will welcome this change for the same reason."
See that? Palin will NOT be insulated from tough questions at the debates. The Moderator will send some softball questions, no doubt, and Palin will have crammed and studied hard to get those answers down. But in order to see the real Palin, she needs to come off script. This is where Biden comes in. If the Obama camp is truly prepared (as I believe they are), this is the time for Biden to shine.
I can't see any way for the McCain camp to protect Palin in this situation short of them trying to change the rules between now and then. Whether they attempt an outright request to change the rules back or try to strongarm the Moderator into preventing canditates from asking each other questions (as it is up to the discretion of the Moderator), it's clear to me they will need to try something to counter this "problem". Either way, I think the McCain camp has to be absolutely terrified of the prospects. They WILL have to try something. Having Biden ask Palin questions is NOT something they are going to allow to happen without a fight.
Watch for it...
And for those who don't know, Gwen Ifill from PBS will be the moderator for the VP debate. See