Unusually high stakes in vice presidential debate

SMU political scientist Cal Jillson talks about the unusually high stakes in the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.

By Linda Feldmann
Staff Writer

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Normally, vice presidential debates don’t matter much. Not so this year, when the two candidates take the stage in St. Louis Thursday night.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose winning persona boosted the lackluster campaign of John McCain at last month’s GOP convention, is on the ropes after a series of subpar interviews left her looking ill-informed – and some conservatives in open revolt against her. After some stumbles by Senator McCain when Wall Street fell into crisis, the Republican ticket has been losing ground and now trails in most polls.

The future of McCain’s campaign does not rest on her shoulders – it’s still up to McCain himself to get his team back on track – but if Governor Palin commits any gaffes or looks out of her depth Thursday, McCain’s task becomes that much harder. . .

“She has to be baseline credible in discussing a fairly wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“She does not have to match Biden. She doesn’t need to know foreign capitals and how to say Saakashvili. But she does need to know how to talk about America’s place in the world, the kinds of challenges we face, and how we might best respond to them.”

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