Just over one-third of voters (34%) say tonight’s vice presidential debate is Very Important to how they will vote, and over half (54%) view Joseph Biden as the more skilled debater, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. ~Rasmussen

Good grief.  34%?  Looking at the crosstabs, I see that 28% of independents and 22% of McCain supporters say that the debate tonight will be very important for how they vote.  I take this to mean that all these people could change their minds based on what happens tonight.  If tonight goes as badly for Palin as I think many of us expect it will, does that really mean that up to a fifth of McCain’s supporters could be at least temporarily lost?  That seems impossible.  I know there are people, including opponents, who say that she is effective in debates, but I have seen her performances in the gubernatorial debates in ’06 and I’m not sure that the “glittering generality” will wear well when she is asked questions on national policy.  The Senate just passed the bailout last night, so you can be sure that both candidates will get a question about that and the financial crisis more generally.  We know what she said in her last answer about the bailout.  How much aw-shucksing and talking about her 401K can she do before she has to touch on larger policy matters?  38% of McCain supporters believe that Palin is the more skilled debater.  Is that just reflexive loyalty to one’s own candidate that guarantees that these people are going to think that Palin wins the debate no matter what happens, or is that a serious expectation that Palin is supposed to win that will result in disappointment?     

The L.A. Times has a story on the debate:

“The picture that we’ve been given thus far is something of a caricature,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant. He said that Palin should accent her rationale for being on the ticket. 

She doesn’t have to be an expert in the politics of Kosovo or Georgia to be viewed as a competent vice presidential choice [bold mine-DL],” Ayres said. “What they are going to be looking for is her set of values, her sympathies, her orientation to the world, who she connects with.”

I guess she’s fortunate that no one is expecting her to demonstrate expert knowledge of that kind.  It strikes me that the VP nominee has to demonstrate some measure of preparedness to assume the Presidency.  Values and sympathies are all very well, but if the audience cannot imagine her as a plausible President they might think she is a saint and still not be reassured.