Pay attention, Joe Biden: Andrew Halcro explains what it's like to debate Sarah Palin.
Halcro should know: He was the 2006 independent candidate for governor of Alaska, and saw what Palin can (and cannot) do.
Here are the key excerpts from the closing paragraphs of Halcro's Christian Science Monitor essay:
Palin is a master of the nonanswer. She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she's met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges. All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges.
In one debate, a moderator asked the candidates to name a bill the legislature had recently passed that we didn't like. I named one. Democratic candidate Tony Knowles named one. But Sarah Palin instead used her allotted time to criticize the incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski. Asked to name a bill we did like, the same pattern emerged: Palin didn't name a bill.
And when she does answer the actual question asked, she has a canny ability to connect with the audience on a personal level. For example, asked to name a major issue that had been ignored during the campaign, I discussed the health of local communities, Mr. Knowles talked about affordable healthcare, and Palin talked about ... the need to protect hunting and fishing rights.
So what does that mean for Biden? With shorter question-and-answer times and limited interaction between the two, he should simply ignore Palin in a respectful manner on the stage and answer the questions as though he were alone. Any attempt to flex his public-policy knowledge and show Palin is not ready for prime time will inevitably cast him in the role of the bully.
On the other side of the stage, if Palin is to be successful, she needs to do what she does best: fill the room with her presence and stick to the scripted sound bites.
You can bet that's precisely what the McCain team expects her to do.