Rich Galen

Here's the mistake the McCain campaign made last week in the run-up to the first debate between the Presidential candidates. It allowed the Obama campaign to set the bar for McCain.

Things like: "McCain has to have a game-changing debate." And "McCain needs a knockout punch." And like that. If the McCain campaign had a counter to that it was lost in the tornado which blew through political landscape which was the Hank Paulson bail-out package.

So, what happened was the press reported what the Obama campaign was saying. And, hearing nothing from the McCain campaign the press began to believe what the Obama campaign was saying because - they were reporting it.

See how this works? A campaign says something. The press reports it. Then, because the press is reporting it, the press believes whatever the campaign is saying must be true.

It is the only successful closed system of garbage recycling ever developed by man.

When the debate was over, a large proportion of the press - especially the post-debate analysts - said that McCain hadn't met the test which they had set for him and thus had lost the debate. After 72 hours of hearing, seeing, and reading that McCain hadn't met the test the press (through the Obama campaign) hadn't set for him, the general public agreed that McCain had lost the debate.

Now we come to the debate between the Vice Presidential candidates. On the bar-setting scale, Governor Palin's success bar is so low, she has to dive into the deep end of the pool just to get under it.

Between the Charlie Gibson and the Katie Couric interviews plus the Tina Fey dead-on impersonations on Saturday Night Live, not much is expected of Gov. Palin on Thursday night.

Of Joe Biden, on the other hand, much is expected. The over-under on stupid things that will come out of his mouth in the 90-minute debate is currently at three-and-a-half.

How many people in the room were Dan Quayle's press secretary? Oh, only me? Well, how about that?

In the infamous debate between Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen the early returns from reporters in the hall were that Quayle had done well enough - even given the "you, Senator, are no Jack Kennedy" crack.

The TV audience saw a completely different debate than those in the hall and the snap polls had Quayle losing badly and, by the next morning, had the George H.W. Bush staff in a full, ears-back panic.

In spite of that, it is useful to remember that Vice President Bush became President Bush and Senator Quayle because Vice President Quayle.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.