While it doesn't compare with weighty world matters such as the collapse of financial markets, the vice presidential debate holds plenty of intrigue tonight. Here are five things I'll be watching for as we start blogging at 6 p.m..
1. Joe Biden's body language. Will he have his usual swagger? Will he make the mistake of belittling Sarah Palin and apprearing arrogant? John McCain made a huge mistake in his first debate with Barack Obama by appearing cold and detached. Will Biden make a similar blunder?
2. Palin on foreign policy. She's been ridiculed for suggesting that Alaska's proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience. If she leaves the impression that her world stops and starts in Wasilla, its doubtful many voters will want her to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
3. Energy and the environment. Both candidates are highly conversant on this topic but have completely different world views. Palin supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has been ambiguous on whether industrial emissions are contributing to climate change. Biden opposes drilling in ANWR but has been accused of flip-flopping on his opposition to off-shore oil drilling, at one point saying, "I am not opposed to it." Will both candidates go after each other on their inconsistencies? Stay tuned.
4.Social issues. McCain picked Palin, in part, because of her appeal to the religious right. But will she be vocal tonight in her opposition to abortion and her opposition to embryonic stem cell research? As governor, she passed over an opportunity this year to hold a special session of the Alaska Legislature on a Prop. 4-type measure to require minors to get parental consent before getting an abortion. That suggests she may be more reluctant to impose her views on government than is generally perceived.
5. Lastly, I'll be curious to see if Biden, Palin or even Gwen Ifill can smoothly pronounce the name of Mahmound Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. Better not to try, but I am sure someone will.
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