The funniest, and most revealing, moment in Howard Kurtz's lengthy debate wrap-up at The Washington Post today comes about halfway through it. After hailing Palin's performance and quoting numerous mainstream pundits attesting to same, all to suggest that she succeeded in stopping the bleeding, Kurtz dryly posts the following without comment:
CNN's insta-poll: Biden, 51 to 36.
CBS survey of uncommitted: Biden, 46 to 21.
Of course, he could have gone on, cited many other polls, and dove into the numbers that showed little if any movement for Palin in the key measure of, by the way, is she actually ready to be president?
I posted here last week on the same phenomenon after the McCain-Obama debate, which the vast majority of pundits declared "even" -- but polls showed an easy win for Obama. And I posted several times earlier about McCain's poll numbers dropping only partly because of the economy, but largely due to the Palin Effect wearing thin.
It's not just conservatives like Bill Kristol, Peggy Noonan and David Brooks (see his column today) who have lowered the bar so far that even a grasshopper could not limbo under it: See mainstream comments by Adam Nagourney in the Times and Dan Balz in the Post and David Broder.
Yet the mainstream outlets wonder why so many have lost respect for their judgment. The voters are apparently not buying "aw shucks, wink, you betcha" as enough of a qualification for the presidency. Yet for many in the punditocracy that's just enough. Peggy Noonan, for example, writes today: "There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial."
Chris Cillizza of "The Fix" blog at The Washington Post helpfully provides what he calls the "rapidly congealing conventional wisdom": the Alaska governor "did enough to make herself a non-issue (or at least less of an issue) in the final month of the campaign." Perhaps he does not know about the Troopergate report coming next week.
His Post colleague, David Broder, meanwhile, writes that Palin did 'fine on her own" and might very well "help" McCain in the polls. Just as that appeared, his paper noted that Palin's standing with voters was actually slipping.
Of course, the Fox pundits were most certain of a Palin win. Today Fox released its poll numbers. Whoops: Biden 61%, Palin 39 %.
Another oft-heard pundit claim: Palin's "steady" performance dooms Tiny Fey. How can she make fun of her now? Well, just watch on Saturday (wink, wink, you betcha, Jo and Joe Sixpack, doggone it).
David Brooks asks in his embarrassing column that hails Palin, "Where was this woman during her interview with Katie Couric?" Where? Apparently average Americans, but not average pundits, know the difference between scripted, and genuine, answers.
And, David: They expect more from a president than those feel-good qualities, after eight years of the man you trumpeted for the White House in 2000 over someone maybe a little more "elite," and a little smarter.
Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher. His new book on Iraq and the media is "So Wrong for So Long."