The stakes tonight

Sarah Palin’s fans have had a ready response to those who criticize her addition to the ticket on grounds of inexperience: she has, they say, as much or more relevant experience as Barack Obama.

This argument has considerable merit. However, it overlooks the fact that over the past year and a half Obama the candidate has been thinking and talking about the full range of policy issues that are expected to confront the next president. Palin, by virtue of her status as a new governor and non-candidate, has not been doing this.

It’s extremely doubtful that thinking and talking about a wide range of issues counts as experience that will materially assist Obama if he is elected president. But it does give him at least one significant advantage in his electoral quest — it enables to come across as knowledgeable during debates.

Tonight we’ll see if Sarah Palin, without the assistance of thinking and talking about the full range of issues for an extended period of time, can come across as knowledgeable during a debate. I offer no predictions about this. But I do predict that if Palin fails to come across that way, voters will be understandably reluctant to forgive John McCain for putting her on the ticket.

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