After Sarah Palin's trainwreck of an interview with Katie Couric (hilariously sent up by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though the real thing was beyond parody), the McCain campaign is reported to be in a panic about Thursday's vice-presidential debate. One theory has it that McCain's proposal to postpone last Friday's presidential debate was actually a ploy to make sure that the Palin-Biden encounter never happens (he cannily suggested moving the first Obama-McCain meeting to the Thursday VP slot).
Given the damage that a poor performance by Palin could do to McCain's chances, plus the latter's propensity for theatrical gestures when things get desperate (postponing the first day of the Republican convention to fly down to hurricane-threatened New Orleans, announcing the choice of Palin to undermine the impact of Obama's acceptance speech, 'suspending' his campaign to ride to the rescue of the bailout plan), it's a fair bet that the old maverick will stage another distraction before Thursday's showdown.
While acknowledging that I'm only a humble transatlantic observer of the campaign, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the coming week will see one of the following strategies adopted by the McCain campaign:
1. Plant a smear story about Joe Biden, perhaps digging up some long-forgotten dirt from his past, in order to neuter him politically before the debate.
2. Do the same to Obama - maybe going public with some scandal that they've been keeping in reserve for just such a moment - to create a media storm and distract attention from the debate.
3. Announce that Sarah Palin, or one of her children, has been taken ill, necessitating a sudden return to Alaska, and a postponement of the debate.
4. If all else fails, go for the nuclear option and declare that (perhaps because of some version of No.3) Palin is withdrawing her candidacy.
Thanks to the growing chorus of disillusionment with Palin among conservatives who only recently hailed her as an inspired choice, No.4 no longer seems quite so unlikely - despite the enormous risks. As to who would step into Palin's shoes, here's a question: why did Rudy Giuliani accompany McCain to Oxford, Mississippi for the debate, and why did he and not Palin take on the traditional veep role of boosting the candidate's performance in the spin room and on the networks after the debate? It's just a thought - but if anything comes of it, remember that you read it here first.
I didn't think of this one. The (London) Sunday Times has picked up a rumour from inside the McCain camp that Bristol Palin's wedding could take place just before the November election, thus creating a distraction and garnering sympathy for her mother's candidacy. Alternatively - should we look forward to an announcement before this Thursday's debate that Bristol has gone into labour and needs her mother at her side? In this increasingly unpredictable election year, anything is possible.