Don't underestimate Sarah Palin. She may be parochial minded and incurious, but she didn't get to be governor of Alaska by being stupid. She can be a formidable debater, frequently making direct, and successful, emotional appeals to her white working class supporters at the expense of her opponent. Don't be surprised if she comes out the winner in tonight's debate.
Will this be enough to turn the election around for McCain? It's hard to say. The Republicans have run successfully on (largely perceived) resentments among white voters for over 40 years now. We all know that the only reason that the election is close is because Obama is black. If he was blonde and blue-eyed and named Smythe, his lead would be insurmountable. And, irony of ironies, it is this most loyal base of white working class men that have lost the most over the last 8 years of Republican rule (wages, benefits, jobs, homes). Will those pink slips and foreclosure notices finally be enough to get people to see past their cherished grudges and preconceptions? Will the spectacle of all those politicians claiming to be their champions against imaginary condescending East Coast and California elites, against "welfare cheats" and crime (translate, brown and black people) giving away their hard earned tax dollars to rescue the very businesses that have preyed upon them and profited off their misery finally get them to wake up and smell the coffee?
We'll find out on Election Day. In the meantime, expect Sarah Palin to press all those sore buttons and to play the white and downwardly mobile like Heifetz on a Stradivarius.