Following the debate, Fox News pollster Luntz suggested there would be a "shift" in the national polls in the direction of McCain-Obama thanks to Palin's St. Louis performance.
That, he said, was based on the responses registered among Luntz's debate focus group members. How many focus group participants changed their votes and moved over to the GOP side after the debate? Three.
Meanwhile, actual debate polls raise doubts about a pending "shift."
And here's what happened when CNN polled its focus group:
ABC News correspondent Kate Snow uncritically quoted Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that Sen. Barack Obama voted for "[c]utting off funding for our troops while in a war zone." However, Snow did not report that Sen. John McCain voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as Obama noted during the September 26 presidential debate.
She's the National Review columnist who created a major stir last week when she wrote that Palin should drop off the GOP ticket because she was, bascially, an embarrassment. She was in over her head, Parker announced.
But wouldn't you know, appearing on MSNBC tonight, Parker herself suggested that all Palin had to was show up at the debate and she'd "be fine."
Chris Mattews was semi-obsessed about how Joe Biden should act when he and Sarah Palin came out for the debate tonight. Should he be a gentleman and help her with her chair? Or would that be too much?
Uh Chris, they're standing.
But if Palin will be under an intense spotlight thanks to doubts about her basic competency, Biden's challenge will be to not prove just how much he knows.
Seriously? Joe Biden is supposed to avoid showing that he has knowledge? Because apparently if there's anything you don't want in the person who is a heartbeat away from the presidency, it's ... knowledge.
Has there ever been a dumber standard set for a debate participant?
The media and pundit class has spent much of the day talking about "expectations" for tonight's debate, with the consensus being that they are much lower for Palin. Here's Politico's take this morning:
For Republicans, Palin's stumbles with Couric have been a mixed blessing. While the slip-ups raised questions about the Alaska governor's readiness for national office and increased pressure on her to perform in her sole joint appearance with Biden, they also sent already low expectations plunging even further.
Palin's aides are seeking to raise the bar for Biden just as it has been lowered for Palin.
The expectations game conceals an underlying reality. Obama's camp chose Biden as a running mate in part because he can be an electrifying, passionate presence on television, one who regularly won post-debate focus groups and snap polls in the primaries, and one who has used his (earned) reputation for gaffes to good comic effect. Palin, by contrast, was chosen for her symbolism and her stump speeches -- not for her mastery of the unpredictable formats of interviews and debates.
It's fine for the punditry to decide that there are lower expectations for one candidate or the other - but the thing everyone should be clear on is that there must be the same standard for both. Both candidates are running for the same office. Both have a chance to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Both have to show they are capable of performing effectively in that role. Both have to meet the same standard - and neither should be awarded bonus points for exceeding "expectations."
The "expectations game" is just that: a game.
USA Today reported that a Vets for Freedom ad "says [Sen. Barack] Obama missed nearly half the Senate's votes but showed up 'to vote against emergency funding for our troops' " and went on to assert: "Obama and [Sen. John] McCain each have voted for bills that include troop funding. Obama said he opposed one such bill in May 2007 because it did not set a timetable for removing U.S. troops from Iraq." However, USA Today did not report that McCain himself voted against legislation to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A CBSNews.com article asserted that "[Gov. Sarah] Palin's readiness to be president ... has been widely questioned by Democrats and many in the media." The article failed to note, however, that many of those "questioning" Palin's readiness are conservatives. In fact, CBS Early Show correspondent Jeff Glor noted, "even some conservatives are concerned, including syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, who said Palin is 'clearly out of our league' and called for the Alaska governor to leave the race."
MSNBC's Chris Matthews and The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye asked whether Sen. Joe Biden will "help" Gov. Sarah Palin "with her chair" at the beginning of the vice-presidential debate. The question is one that presumably would not be asked if the two candidates were the same gender, and the premise of the question itself is false, as the debate format rules state that Biden and Palin will be "standing at podiums" -- a fact Seelye later acknowledged.
Much of the news media is reporting that Barack Obama is pulling away from John McCain ... and suggesting that, because of low expectations, Sarah Palin need only get through tonight's debate without accidentally endorsing Obama in order to be successful. Put the two together, and it's hard to avoid the suspicion that the media is more than ready to push a McCain-Palin "comeback" narrative -- and, consciously or not, to help that comeback along.
Don't believe that kind of thing happens? Here's Brian Williams and Howard Fineman, in a September 21, 2000 exchange:
HOWARD FINEMAN: The media pendulum swings, as you were pointing out before, Brian. Bill Clinton can resurface in this campaign in a way that might not necessarily help Al Gore. And Al Gore himself has a tendency to begin - when he's ahead especially I think - talking down to the country like he's the kindergarten teacher talking to the class. I think all those factors are at play right now as Bush has really had probably the best week he's had since his convention speech. And Gore has had his worst.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Howard, I don't know of any kind of conspiratorial trilateral commission-like council meetings in the news media. But you bring up an interesting point. And boy, it does seem true over the years that the news media almost reserve the right to build up and tear down and change their minds and like an underdog. What's that about?
HOWARD FINEMAN: Well, what it's about is the relentless search for news and the relentless search for friction in the story. I don't think the media was going to allow just by its nature the next seven weeks and the last seven or eight weeks of the campaign to be all about Al Gore's relentless triumphant march to the presidency.
We want a race I suppose. If we have a bias of any kind, it's that we like to see a contest, and we like to see it down the end if we can. And I think that's partly the psychology at play here.
Because they make the media do (even more) foolish things. Paging Politico.
Headline: "Psychics: Stars not aligned for Palin"
[Elizabeth] Joyce, whose website claims she was "born with the authentic gift of psychic ability," was one of a handful of prominent psychics Politico surveyed to get a better "sense" of how the Palin-Biden matchup might shake out. According to their occult minds, Biden has the edge and, ominously, the moon and stars are not aligned in Palin's favor.
Joe Biden "has benefited from resources and relationships not available to average Americans."
And yes, that's an A1 story today.