Too Cute by Half: Nate Silver Edition

One of my otherwise absolutely favorite commentors Nate Silver lays an egg on this one today in the New Republic.

Like Andrew Sullivan, I think that the Obama campaign has little to lose and everything to gain by encouraging the CPD to have Gwen Ifill to pull out of moderating the VP debate.

It’s not that the right’s critique isn’t utterly transparent, but media backlash was one of the principal dynamics in motivating the Palin bounce in the first place.

But there’s another factor here too. In preparing for a debate, you are often preparing nearly as much for the “judge” or moderator as for the opponent. Both campaigns probably have a pretty good idea of what types of questions she is likely to ask, how he is likely to ask them. Palin and Biden have undoubtedly watched videotapes of Ifill moderating the 2004 debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney.

By changing the moderator, you’re throwing everyone a curveball, and catering to the candidate who is better able to adapt on the fly. Which, most likely, is not going to be Sarah Palin.

I think he is right on this point but missing a bigger point (too cute by half).  The bigger point is that Obama would not want to be seen as selling out a woman and a black woman at that. for personal gain.  Don’t believe for a second that after having pushed for Ifil to be dropped and then Obama going for it (and she is let’s imagine) that McCain wouldn’t have an ad up saying Obama will sell out anyone for his own gain.  He’s a celebrity.  He puts himself first, not country first.  Also don’t think the MSM wouldn’t fall hook line and sinker for it either.

Silver’s point about a different moderator would reveal that Palin knows even less than I think she does (which isn’t much truth be told), but that small achievement not be worth the cost of what it would to do to Obama to appear to be cowed by the Republicans.

Particularly not worth the cost, given it’s for a VP debate which are not big deals really in the end.  Particularly when Obama is already trouncing McCain as Nate’s brilliant 538 site shows us.

The only argument I think one could make as to why (from an Obama pov) Ifill should be dropped is that she will have been cowed into fear by the Republicans, as Yglesias argues.  But as Coates points out, it’s just as conceivable that the opposite will be the case, i.e. Ifill comes out stronger.  If that happens, then that plays I suppose into the right-wing the MSM are in the tank for Obama/elitists/hate regular Americans like Sarah Palin meme.  (Which was Sullivan’s point that Nate linked to).

But at this juncture, if that were to happen, would that make a difference?  A difference signficant enough to try the Silver tactic?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think VP debates really matter much in the end.  I mean the greatest takedown in VP debate history was this one and the winner of that exchange did not become the Vice President you my recall.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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