Check out this interview Palin did with C-SPAN back in February:
While I wouldn't go so far as to call her responses eloquent, they were certainly competent. You get the impression that she knows what she's talking about. She doesn't stumble over words or phrases. She makes her point succinctly and reasonably clearly. See also here and here.
Now, it's possible that she has the same weird affliction that George W. Bush has, where he was a reasonably skilled public speaker as governor but mangles sentences on the national stage. But it's also possible that she's been running the most intricate and brilliant game of expectations-lowering that we've ever seen.
Either way, the debate is likely to be a disappointment for Democrats. The debate format is pretty rigid -- they'll be answering Gwen Ifill's questions directly, and chances are they have a pretty good idea what she'll be asking. There won't be much interaction between the candidates. And Palin is likely to be pretty well rehearsed.
I agree that the debate will disappoint Democrats, if only because the bar has been set low enough for a grasshopper to clear (to steal someone else's words from the intertubes). So, one does wonder if she is gaming the expectations, especially since I have always figured that Bush is stupid like a fox.
On the other hand, I don't see what the benefit is in playing dumb to the point that she becomes a liability only to surprise people by being seeming marginally competent. I mean, not all of those people she has lost can be won back. Or is that the wishful Democrat in me? Is it all about being able to turn around and run against the evil, liberal media portrayal of her? They're doing that already and I doubt that gets many people other than the base riled up...
I still think she's broken under the pressure. Her brain turns off in front of the national camera now -- there is no other way she couldn't name a single newspaper or news magazine. It's gonna take a long time (years, if ever) to recover that confidence.
But she'll probably be able to do a rehearsed presentation pretty well, unless she veers off script.
I don't think she's stupid. Unqualified and uncurious, yes, but not dumb. It's better to attack her positions.
Also, this didn't work with Bush. It's less obvious than with Palin, but there was quite a lot of "he's too dumb for the job" rhetoric in 2000, and it backfired, or at least paled against the "yeah, but he'd be great to have a beer with" response. I'd be curious to know how Mike Mansfield or even Jimmy Carter looked early in their rises to the national stage. I suspect Palin was as surprised as everyone to find herself on national TV, and it's easier for me to believe that what we're seeing is the difficulty of jumping from the Alaska governorship to a national race in a few weeks, than it is to believe this is some elaborately stage managed dumbing down. 'Course it helps that fecklessness seems to come to her naturally. Okay I wrote too much now.
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