Given the merciless and ugly poundng she's taken over the past weeks, her performance Thursday night will be another make-or-break opportunity. No doubt Gwen Ifill is as aware of that as anyone -- and given how the media elite women have treated Governor Palin, there's no particular reason to be optimistic that she'll be treated fairly at the debate.
There are, however, a few things that those preparing her ought to keep in mind.
First, she needs to be ready for some "out of left field" questions she doesn't know the answers to. As I noted in the aftermath of the McCain/Obama debate, with a guy as glib as Barack, the only way there would be a gaffe is if he were forced to rely on his (uniformly bad) instincts to respond for a question for which he couldn't prepare. Ifill will no doubt try to elicit such a gaffe from Governor Palin.
What the governor needs to remind Americans is that this isn't some kind of "pop quiz" -- and that the question exemplifies the kind of "gotcha" politics that make people despise Washington. She needs to explain that, should a crisis arise on her watch, she doesn't need to be able to win a jeopardy contest about a hypothetical. Rather, she will be guided by the facts at the time, and the following principles (and then enumerate). What's more, it doesn't hurt to explain that Barack's first instinct on every major foreign policy issue that's arisen has been absolutely wrong.
Finally, when it comes to the economy, she needs to hammer home that Barack Obama is completely unqualified to shepherd the markets through tough times. Not only did he refuse to stop campaigning to solve the crisis, he's shown no leadership throughout the entire course of it. And while John McCain's efforts resulted in scores more of Republicans supporting the rescue plan, his core constituency -- the far left -- in the House went AWOL, including many of those in the Hispanic and black congressional caucuses.. Some leadership.
And his economic policies are radical. Example one? What he told Charles Gibson back in April: He's willing to stifle economic growth and hurt stock-holders by raising the capital gains tax rates -- even if it results in less money -- in the interests of promoting "equality." That isn't the mark of someone who's willing to do what works to keep America's economy strong. It the sign of someone who's willing to punish Americans in order to enforce some collectivist, left-wing idea of equality.