Forget the pundits — look at what happened to the Intrade political futures market, tracing Sarah Palin withdrawal futures in real time, as Palin debated Joe Biden. They are now lower than Biden withdrawal futures.
When people have their money on the line, they think a little more clearly, in my experience. Palin did well. Yes, she had some moments where she was unfamiliar with the territory and she went back to talking points. Good.
That’s a clever strategy to use when dealing with a hostile debating environment, in which the moderators shares the world-view and issue framing of your opponent. Most men couldn’t do that. It takes too much humility to say “not that pitch, it’s too tough, and I’m going to let it pass.”
Palin got the damned-by-faint-praise treatment by the pundits. “She’s an experienced broadcaster, she knows how to look into the camera. While Biden looked at the moderator.” Yeah, maybe it’s a trick, but maybe it’s a difference in moral compass. You look at the person you care most about. You look at the person you want to win over.
Biden looked at Gwen Ifil of PBS; he smiled at her, sometimes a conspiratorial kind of “don’t we both know how silly this wingnut rube from the frontier is?”. After 30,000 years (or however long its been) in Washington he knows who his constituency is — Big Media.
The killa from Wasilla (thanks to my friend Rich Karlgaard for this clever moniker) knew who her constuency is. Us.
Palin beat expectations because Big Media had been trying to beat her into the ground for the past month. They lowered the baseline of expectation for her. When she speaks unfiltered, she knocks the ball out of the park.
What does it mean when a candidate beats expectations every time she speaks directly to the people? It means there is a gap between her real persona and the coverage of her persona. This gap is a measure of the degree to which the Big Media filter distorts the candidate.
We saw this with Reagan too. He loved the camera, they said. Maybe. But if he loved the camera so much, why did he leave movies and go into public service? I suggest it’s because he loved the people. Perhaps Sarah does too. Maybe she’s smart enough to know what was behind the camera lens. You and me.
This article originally appeared on CNBC.com.