OU professors: Palin exceeded expectations

Published 10:47 pm Saturday, October 4, 2008

By Benita Heath

The Tribune

It was a chance for Sarah Palin to show she has the right stuff and Thursday night’s vice presidential debate proved Alaska’s governor could talk about more than the location of Russia.

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“She demonstrated breadth of knowledge,” Dr. Michael McTeague, Ohio University professor, said.

And that was what pundits said Palin had to do after gaffes she made recently in televised interviews with national broadcasters that led to commentary on whether she couldn’t take over the presidency.

The most satirized of those was her explanation that she could command foreign affairs because of the close proximity of Russia to her home state.

“She certainly was composed. She was able to be almost, not quite folksy, but relaxed in speech, putting on colloquialisms,” McTeague said. “If that had been done 20 years ago, it wouldn’t have resonated very well. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have spoken like that.”

But McTeague said it worked for Palin.

McTeague’s colleague, Dr. Kenneth Heineman, agrees Palin gave a smooth, confident performance as she faced a seasoned debater, Sen. Joseph Biden.

“I would say in terms of expectations the gain was Sarah Palin. She exceeded expectations,” Heineman said. “She was tough and quite funny. She became more comfortable and took command of the debate. She was able to bypass the media filter and go to the people.”

Calling her a Republican in the vein of Ronald Reagan, Heineman said she was strongest when she talked about herself and faltered when trying to defend the current administration and her running mate. But the same could be said for Biden, the historian said.

“Biden was very strong on himself,” he said.

However, when pressed on the issues he resorted to “a fog of confusions to obscure the fact there are fundamental differences between him and Obama,” Heineman said.

It may not be a campaign death knell but it’s Heineman’s contention that even if McCain does win the swing state of Ohio he will lose the general election. At issue is McCain’s role in the banking bailout bill that was originally defeated by the House by a mere 12 votes.

“I think McCain got done in by the House,” Heineman said. “A lot of conservatives don’t want McCain elected. They don’t see him towing the party line. I think they successfully nailed it for McCain.”

On Friday McCain pulled his campaign headquarters from the state of Michigan and suspended advertising there, all but conceding the state’s 17 electoral votes to Obama.

However, McTeague doesn’t see that as that much of a significant act, citing the heavy labor base there that historically goes Democratic.

“If there is a borderline state like Ohio where you could win, you put your money there,” he said.

And how will Ohio go?

“That will be the big tossup,” McTeague said. “McCain can’t win without Ohio. It’s a statistical anomaly.”