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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Tonight, we didn’t see any major game changing, trainwreck moments. The big question is: putting aside Sarah Palin’s final comment about how great more of these debates would be, how much exposure will Steve Schmidt allow her? With the exception of a few short, scripted rally speeches, vis-a-vis the press will she go straight to Dick Cheney’s bunker, do not pass go, do not collect $200?

I suspect she will. Despite what I view as the correct, hammering demand to have Palin face questioning in a press conference format from the grand old men of the blogosphere, Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan, I don’t suspect the Obama campaign will much push the issue, and the McCain people have to be scared to death to have any more Couric-style answers out there. They want to lock this performance in and keep it in stasis.

Joe Biden was strongest tonight in the beginning and in the end — much the way high school students are coached to write strong essays. Capture your audience’s attention at the beginning and the end, because psychological studies tell us we remember the first and last things we hear more than other parts of the larger whole. And in the middle, try not to screw it up.

Body language-wise, I’ll have to watch the debate again, silently, to get a better feel. But it didn’t have the uncomfortable hostility of the first McCain-Obama debate. Biden seemed perfectly relaxed, and Palin was a bit nervous, but nobody will hold that against her. These two were comfortable looking at each other. Once she got the blood flowing, Palin seemed to relax and enjoy the sparring and grew more comfortable as time went on.

Tomorrow, the big story is unlikely to be anything major from this debate. It’ll be the House attempting to pass the economic bailout package. Particularly if the House fails to pull this off, the story will change, and we’ll be on to the next cycles. Ah the press cycle, she is a fickle mistress.

My early read on the mood of Palin’s supporters is they’re pleased with her performance, and didn’t seem to let down any. The other read was that the debate really wasn’t going to change their opinion much. To the base, this is someone who is one of them. “Sarah!” we heard supporters yelling to each other in the parking lots after the debate.

It’s been another wild and fascinating day on the road that, for me, began at the Democratic convention and hasn’t relented yet. Thanks for bearing with us through the Blogger problems that had us tearing our hair out, and look for a resumption of the On the Road series tomorrow. Here comes Brett with a beer. (That’s a hell of a photographer.) G’night.

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