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Could McCain Campaign Be Sandbagging On The Debates?

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Folks are up in arms over the way the McCain campaign has handled Sarah Palin. She hasn't done a press conference, hasn't been answering reporters questions and this week news outlets were told that only photographers would be allowed into Palin's first meetings with foreign leaders. After a brief revolt, a few reporters were allowed to join the photographers but little conversation was actually documented.

Now the McCain campaign has suggested that the Vice-Presidential debate be postponed. The immediate interpretation from most Democrats was that Palin simply is not ready for her close-up. Some folks saw a conspiracy and thought the McCain campaign was actually looking for a way to cancel the debate altogether.

It's certainly possible that they are just not comfortable with how she will perform. Her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric have been less than scintillating. But what if there was another possibility? As inept as the McCain campaign has looked these past two weeks, changing direction every few hours and throwing out gambit after gambit, they are certain to be aware that their suggestion will arouse suspicions. But wait. What suspicions are being aroused? The suspicion that Sarah Palin is not up to the task of debating Joe Biden. What better way to lower the bar?

From the McCain campaign's perspective, if the debate is moved they get extra time to prepare. Whether it's moved or not, the fallout will be that the expectations for their candidates performance will be lowered. Isn't that just what they want? Then, if Palin merely survives the debate she's hailed for holding her own against big bad veteran Biden. Or, she does a great job (let's face it, it's a possibility. Biden hasn't exactly set the campaign trail on fire). In which case it becomes a slam dunk for the Republicans.

Managing expectations is a key part of debate strategy. The rules of the debate have already been stacked in Palin's favor. The McCain campaign may be hoping to reprise the Palin bump that came out of the RNC. They won't be getting many more such opportunities.

Come to think of it, could this exact same line of reasoning also fit into the request to delay the Presidential debate? Most people figure McCain's delay tactic was merely a way to change the momentum after his poll numbers began to sag. On the other hand, any Democrats who suggest McCain is simply trying to "weasel out of the debate" are only helping to lower the bar for McCain. Knowing this would give the Republicans added incentive to try this ploy out.

I could be giving these guys too much credit but if you're going to sit down at the chess board, you need to look at every possibility.